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Part Three Ethics of Detachment and Compassion
In Islam there are no integral ethics that can be separated from one’s quest for the ‘Face’ of God. The ‘most pious’, or the ‘most mindful [of God]’ (al-atqā) is described as one who gives his wealth in or-der to purify himself; nobody possesses any good thing which might constitute a reward for this person—for he seeks only the Face of his Lord most High. And he, indeed, will be content (92:18–21).Virtu-ous action generates this degree of contentment only if the action is motivated by the quest for God’s good pleasure, without seeking any reward from those to whom one has been generous.1 This intended orientation towards God is the dimension that adds spiritual depth and even a divine quality to those acts of human compassion and selfless generosity towards one’s fellow human beings. Without that depth and quality, the acts remain good, no doubt, and there is a ‘reward’ for that goodness—is the reward of beautiful goodness anything but beautiful goodness? (55:60); but since these good acts are not fully in-tegrated within the Sovereign Good (al-Rahmān), they cannot impart that serene contentment which is bestowed exclusively by the Sover-eign Good upon those who think and act and live for its sake.Can Buddhist ethics be seen by Muslims as predicated upon this quest for the Sovereign Good? The answer will be yes, if the arguments proffered above will be accepted—if, in other words, one accepts that the supreme goal in Buddhism corresponds closely to what is called the Essence of God in Islam. Since Buddhist ethics are clearly predicated upon the quest for the realization of the Abso-lute, we can thus assert that the ethical values shared in common by the two traditions are rooted in a quest for the Absolute, and should not be seen only within a framework of dialogue governed exclu-sively by the social domain. Detachment: Anicca and ZuhdIt would be appropriate to begin this brief exploration of the shared ethical values between Buddhism and Islam by glancing at the way
1. One should note that we have here one of the fundamental teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, referred to there as nishkama karma: acting while being detached from the fruits of one’s actions
in which we are to understand the nature of the world in which we live, according to the two traditions. Given the Buddhist conception of this world as being but one minute particle in the immeasurable series of universes of which the illusory web of samsara is woven, and given the Buddhist stress on the interminable series of reincar-nations to which the unenlightened soul is susceptible within sam-sara, one might think that there is little in common between the two traditions as regards the fundamental attitude towards the ‘world’. However, if one focuses upon the Buddhist idea of anicca, imper-manence, and restricts one’s view to the fundamental nature of this world—leaving out of account the cosmological framework within which this world is situated—then we will be brought to a position remarkably close to that fashioned by the Islamic understanding of ‘the life of this world’, al-hayāt al-dunyā. SufferingAs was seen in the introduction, the crux of the Buddha’s message concerns suffering and how to avoid it. The fact that we all undergo suffering (dukkha) is the first of the four ‘noble truths’; the second is the cause of suffering: ‘thirst’ (tanhā, Sanskrit: trishnā) for the im-permanent; the third is the cessation of suffering through the extinc-tion of this thirst; and the fourth is the path that leads to the cessation of suffering. The crux of this fundamental teaching of the Buddha is the element of ‘thirst’. This thirst for the perishable things of this world arises out of the ego in its unbridled, untamed, unmastered state. Not only does this thirst generate the seeds of suffering for oneself, by producing a passionate attachment to things from which one will ineluctably be detached, sooner or later; this thirst also gives rise to all the vices that result in the infliction of suffering upon oth-ers. Therefore, one must overcome thirst for the perishable both for the sake of one’s liberation from suffering, and for the sake of lib-erating others from the consequences of one’s egotistically-driven vices. The opposite of suffering is not simply a state of ease for the ego; it is the highest good—Nirvana, thus, the Absolute, which tran-scends the ego and all its states. Thus the fundamental motivation for ridding oneself of suffering is not situated on the same plane as that upon which the suffering is located—the empirical ego. For this ego is, like all compounded (samskrta) things, itself impermanent, whence the idea of anattā or no-self. Rather, the motivation for this liberation from suffering is grounded in a quest for the Dharma, the Buddha-nature; in other words, it is grounded in that which is incommensurable with the ego. Thus, when one speaks of the ethi-cal actions called for by the ‘eightfold path’—this path being the detailed expression of the fourth noble truth, viz., the path to the cessation of suffering—one is speaking about a quest that is more than simply ethical, and more than simply the cessation of suffering for the individual. Rather, this quest is for what in Islam is called the ‘Face of God’. The ethical necessity of overcoming egotism thus rejoins and is deepened by the spiritual imperative of transcending the ego for the sake of the Absolute.Ridding oneself of thirst for the impermanent, then, is of the highest significance both in ethical and in spiritual terms. Such cardinal virtues as generosity and compassion, kindness and humility, patience and forbearance, arise in the measure of one’s success in rupturing the symbiotic nexus between egotism and the things of this world, between a false subject and the multitude of false objects. Overcoming egotism, the source of all the vices, requires depriving it of its life-blood, and this life-blood of egotism is ‘thirst’; over-coming ‘thirst’ requires in its turn a concrete apprehension of the impermanence of all those things which can be thirsted after. Thus, a correct understanding of anicca lies at the heart of that ethical imperative: overcoming egotism. As noted in the introduction, one key element of a recurring description of those who are saved in the Hereafter relates to suffer-ing. As seen in 2:62, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and performs virtuous acts—for such, their reward is with their Lord, no fear or grief will befall them. One should note that huzn, sadness or grief, is absent from the souls of the saved, in the Hereafter, and, for the sanctified, in this world. For the awliyā’, the saints, or ‘friends’ of God, are described in these very terms, in their present state, in this world:Indeed, as for the friends of God, they have no fear nor do they grieve—those who believe and are mindful. Theirs are good tidings in this world and in the Hereafter…(10:62–64). Whereas for ordinary believers, the ‘good tidings’ pertain to the Hereafter, the saints are given the same good tidings in this world; for, here and now, they have achieved that state of contentment with God, and detachment from the world. The word ‘mindful’ translates yattaqūn, which derives from a root meaning ‘to guard’ or ‘protect’oneself: the implication is that one guards oneself from the punish-ment of God by avoiding evil and doing good, in full awareness of God’s inescapable presence. The key term, taqwā, is thus often translated as ‘piety’ or ‘God-consciousness’, but it can equally well be translated as ‘mindfulness’ a term so closely associated with Buddhist ethics. Those who are ‘mindful’ of God are, by that very token, ‘guarding’ themselves against the perils of attachment to the ‘life of the world’, al-hayāt al-dunyā. They are guarding themselves against that which the Prophet warned his followers about most sol-emnly: ‘I do not fear that you will fall into idolatry (shirk), but I do fear that you will fall for this world—aspiring for it in competition with each other.’2WorldlinessIt would be well to note some more sayings of the Prophet in con-nection with the pitfalls of worldliness, sayings which reinforce this resonance between the Muslim and Buddhist conception of the im-permanence of this world:Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a wayfarer.3The heart of an old man remains young in two respects: his love of this world and his far-fetched hopes.4If the son of Adam [i.e., the human being] had two val-leys full of money, he would desire a third, for nothing can fill the belly of the son of Adam except dust.5The fire of hell is veiled by passionate desires, while Paradise is veiled by undesirable things.6Remember much that which ends all pleasures (hādhim al-ladhdhāt): Death.7Death is a precious gift to the believer.8
2. Sahīh al-Bukhārī, tr. M.M. Khan (Chicago: Kazi Publications, 1977), vol. 2, p. 239, no. 428.3. Bukhārī (Summarised), tr. M.M. Khan (Riyadh: Makataba Dar-us-Salam, 1994), p. 981, no. 2092 (translation modified).4. Ibid., pp. 982–983, no. 2096 (translation modified).5. Ibid., p. 984, no.2100.6. Ibid., p. 989, no.2110 (translation modified). 7. Tirmidhī, Qiyāma, 26; and Nasā’ī, Janā’iz, 3, as cited by T.J. Winter (tr. & ed.), Al-Ghazālī—The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife (Cambridge: Is-lamic Texts Society, 1989), p. 9.8. Ibid., p. 9. The saying is found in Hākim, iv.319; and Tabarānī’s al-Mu‘jam al-kabīr (Haythamī, Majma‘ II.320; X.309), as per Winter’s note 13, p. 262.
It is thus not surprising that the Prophet also said: ‘Die before you die.’9Taken together, these sayings emphasise not just the imperative of detachment or zuhd in relation to the false plenitude of the world, they also underscore the link between dying to the ego and dying to the world: one has to rupture the symbiotic relationship between the inner subjective pole of egotism and the outer objective pole of things. This spiritual imperative is also affirmed in the Qur’ān in ways which are both strikingly obvious and, as we shall see, ex-tremely subtle. This same link between the inner pole of egotism and the outer attraction of things is underlined in the Sutta Nipata in the following very important passage, which might indeed be read as a commentary on the prophetic injunction: die before you die.Short indeed is this life. This side of a hundred years it per-ishes. And even if one live beyond, yet of decay he perishes at last. It is from selfishness that people grieve. “Not lasting are possessions in this world: all this is liable to change”—so seeing, let not a man stay in his house [i.e., cling to self].10By death is put away even that of which one thinks, “This is mine own”. So seeing, let not one devote himself to selfish-ness. As, when one awakes, he sees no more him whom he met in a dream, even so, one sees no more the beloved one who hath died, and become a ghost.11In this short passage the relationship between the principle of imper-manence and the vice of selfishness is well defined. He who fails to comprehend the existential fatality of death cannot transcend his own equally fatal egotism: selfishness ‘kills’ all virtue just as surely as the compounded, originated nature of all things ensures their extinction: Impermanent, alas, are all compounded things. Their nature is to rise and fall. When they have risen, they cease. The bringing of them to an end is bliss.12
9. Tirmidhī, Qiyāma, 25.10. The ‘house’ symbolises the self, as can be seen in the following saying from the Dhammapada (verse 154, p. 56–57): ‘But now, I have seen thee, housebuilder: never more shalt thou build this house. The rafters of sin are broken. The ridge-pole of ignorance is destroyed. The fever of craving is past: for my mortal mind is gone to the joy of the immortal Nirvana.’11. Sutta Nipata, v. 804–807—cited on p. 187 of Some Sayings.12. Digha Nikāya, II., 198, cited on p. 188 of Some Sayings.
Mara, the principle of death for the outer world of things, is also the source of all temptation and sin for the inner world of the soul; the following sayings heighten our awareness of this inner nexus between ignorance, egotism and sin: that is, the mutually reinforc-ing relationships between deficiency on the plane of knowledge, susceptibility to delusion on the plane of psychology, and the pro-pensity to evil on the plane of morality:Who shall conquer this world … and the world of Yama,13of death and of pain? … He who knows that this body is the foam of a wave, the shadow of a mirage, he breaks the sharp arrows of Mara, concealed in the flowers of sensuous passions and, unseen by the King of Death, he goes on and follows his path.14When a man considers this world as a bubble of froth, and as the illusion of an appearance, then the king of death has no power over him.15Subtle PolytheismThese subtle relationships and causal connections are the life-blood of the suffering which flows from the impermanence of all things; they point to the condition of ‘mutual arising’ or ‘interdependent causation’ (pratītyasamutpāda) which characterizes the outer world, and attachment to which generates suffering in the soul. This key psychological insight into the human condition is of immense prac-tical value in terms of Buddhist-Muslim dialogue, if the aim of such dialogue is to go beyond merely establishing formal resemblances as regards ethical teachings on the plane of social relations and give rise, instead, to a process of mutual illumination on the level of spiritual insight into the human condition. More specifically, the acute and penetrating insights fashioned by the Buddhist stress on anicca can help Muslims bring into sharper focus those teachings within the Qur’ān and the Sunna which pertain to the necessity of zuhd or detachment with regard to the world. These teachings can be divided into two categories, overt, relating to the evanescence of the ‘life of this world’, and subtle, relating to a complex and calibrated apprehension of the meaning of idolatry and disbelief.
13. Yama is the guardian of hell in Buddhist cosmology.14. Dhammapada, 44 and 46, p. 42.15. Dhammapada, 170, p. 60
On the overt plane, we can observe clear parallels with the Bud-dhist teaching of impermanence. For example, in the Dhammapadawe read:The wise do not call a strong fetter that which is made of iron, of wood or of rope; much stronger is the fetter of pas-sion for gold and for jewels, for sons or for wives.16This is clearly echoed in such verses of the Qur’ān as the following: Know that the life of the world is only play, and idle talk, and pomp, and boasting between you, and rivalry in wealth and children; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whose growth is pleasing to the farmer, but afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow, then it becomes straw…(57:20)The Buddhist reference to the world as ‘a bubble of froth’ (Dham-mapada, 170 cited above) evokes the following Qur’ānic image: He sends down the water from the sky, so that valleys flow according to their measure, and the flood bears swelling foam—from that which they smelt in the fire in order to make ornaments and tools, there rises a foam like it—thus does God strike [a similitude to distinguish] the true and the false. Then as for the foam, it passes away as scum upon the banks, while as for that which is useful to mankind, it remains in the earth (13:17).Turning to the more subtle type of Qur’ānic teaching, let us note that these teachings are brought into sharper focus by the Buddhist perspective on impermanence. More specifically, the deeper mean-ings and implications of such cardinal vices are rendered clearer in the light of the Buddhist stress on the way in which ignorance of impermanence, as seed, produces attachment to the ego, with all the vices that result from such egotism, as its fruit. As seen above in the Sutta Nipata, v. 804–807, one no longer resides in the ‘house’ of one’s ego as soon as one grasps that everything that one apparently possesses will be taken away: By death is put away even that of which one thinks, ‘This is mine own’. So seeing, let not one devote himself to selfishness.
16. Dhammapada, 345, p. 84.
One observes a subtle allusion to this deluded condition in several passages of the Qur’ān; indeed, in the one which we shall look at below, the condition in question is described in terms of the cardinal sins of shirk (idolatry) and kufr (disbelief). These sins are ascribed to those who are formally defined as ‘believers’. We thus come to see that these sins, far from being exhausted by their literal, overt dimensions, in fact refer to subtle and complex psychological states so clearly highlighted in the Buddhist perspective. This is a passage from the chapter entitled ‘The Cave’ (al-Kahf, 18:32–42):Coin for them a similitude: Two men, unto one of whom We had assigned two gardens of grapes, and We had surrounded both with date-palms and had put between them tillage. / Each of the gardens gave its fruit and withheld nothing. And We caused a river to gush forth therein. / And he had fruit. And he said unto his comrade, when he spoke with him: I am more than you in wealth, and stronger in respect of men. / And he went into his garden, thus wronging himself. He said: I do not think that all this will ever perish. / I do not think that the Hour will ever come; and if indeed I am brought back to my Lord, I surely shall find better than this as a resort. / His comrade, when he spoke with him, exclaimed: Do you disbelieve in Him Who created you of dust, then of a drop, and then fashioned you a man? / But He is God, my Lord, and I ascribe unto my Lord no partner. / If only, when you had entered your garden, you had said: That which God wills [will come to pass]! There is no strength save in God! Though you regard me as less than you in wealth and children, / Yet it may be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden, and will send on it a bolt from heaven, and some morn-ing it will be a smooth hillside, / Or some morning its water will be lost in the earth so that you cannot search for it. / And his fruit was beset [with destruction]. Then he began to wring his hands for all that he had spent upon it, when (now) it was all ruined on its trellises, and to say: Would that I had ascribed no partner to my Lord!What is to be noted here is that the proud and boastful owner of the orchards is a believer in God, at least overtly and formally: he believes in his ‘Lord’, he speaks of returning to his Lord, and is aware, at some level at least, that the Hour—the end of his life, and that of the cosmos, the Day of Judgement and then eternity—is a reality that cannot be evaded; he believes, though, that even if he is ‘returned’ to God, he will receive something even more satisfying ‘as a resort’. Yet, despite his knowledge and apparent faith in God, his attitudes are described in terms of idolatry and disbelief: he falls into shirk and kufr because of his ignorance of the impermanence, and ultimately illusory nature, of ‘his’ possessions. His comrade, a humble believer, remonstrates with him not in relation to his pride and his boasting, but in relation to his subtle disbelief: Do you disbelieve in Him Who created you of dust, then of a drop, and then fashioned you a man? The vices of boastfulness and exultation in one’s possessions are here grasped at their root, as manifestations of kufr, and not just kibr (pride). For his part, the true believer affirms: But He is God, my Lord, and I ascribe unto my Lord no partner. The strong implication here is this: your attitude, by contrast, not only manifests disbelief in God, it also implies that you ascribe unto God a partner, thus becoming a mushrik, a polytheist. These implications are confirmed by the words of the owner of the gardens, after he sees them ruined: Would that I had ascribed no partner to my Lord!The ‘god’ of DesireDisbelief in God and ascribing partners to Him, therefore, are not simply questions of denying His existence and overtly setting up some stones and statues to worship instead of Him. Rather, one can delude oneself into thinking that one is a true believer, on the basis of some purely mental or verbal attestation of belief, while in fact being dominated by states of mind and being which belie that belief, and which indeed belie one’s religion, even if one is accomplishing its formal rites. This is the message which is given in the following short chapter of the Qur’ān, entitled ‘Small Kindnesses’ (al-Mā‘ūn, 107:1–7):Have you observed him who belies religion?That is the one who repels the orphan,And urges not the feeding of the poor.So woe unto worshippers,Who are heedless of their prayer;Who would be seen [at worship],Yet refuse small kindnesses!This is more than simply a question of religious hypocrisy, overtly believing in Islam, while secretly disbelieving in it. Rather, one can see that these worshippers may indeed be convinced of Islam at the level of belief and outward action, while de facto violating its spiri-tual substance by their vice of miserliness, which manifests their egotism: it is this egotism which effectively takes the place of God as the actual, existential source of their inmost motivation: Have you seen him who makes his desire (hawā) his god? (25:43; almost identical at 45:23). The sense of the ‘I’ eclipses the light of divine guidance. One may even make great exertions for the sake of God and religion, but be bound by this hidden idolatry of the self. One sees a clear parallel here with the teachings of Buddhism. In addi-tion to what we have observed earlier, let us note here the compel-ling verses of Milarepa, showing how impossible it is to free oneself from oneself if the sense of self be predominant:He who strives for Liberation withThe thought of ‘I’ will ne’er attain it.He who tries to loosen his mind-knotsWhen his spirit is neither great nor free,Will but become more tense.17Milarepa also expresses a theme which resonates strongly with Muslim ethics in the following verses:To give charity without compassionIs like tying oneself to a pillarWith a strong leather strap;It only binds one tighter [in Samsara’s prison].18The Qur’ān’s teaching on charity is similar: A kind word with for-giveness is better than almsgiving followed by injury (2:263).Now, returning to the boastful owner of the gardens, one sees that this egoistic motivation and orientation is given expression in his two statements: first, he boasts to his neighbor, I am more than you
17. The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa (tr. Garma C.C. Chang) (Shamb-hala: Boston & Shaftsbury, 1989), vol. 2, p. 524.18. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 559.
in wealth, and stronger in respect of men. Having engaged in this delusion of grandeur and the belittling of his neighbor, this dem-onstration of egotism and pride is then followed by an expression of the secret source which feeds that egotism and pride. The words he speaks in this parable give voice to the mental insinuations and worldly orientations to which the soul is subject, even the soul of the believer: I do not think that all this will ever perish. This failure to register the impermanence of ‘all this’ goes to the root of his de factostate of disbelief, one which is moreover compounded by idolatry: not only is he guilty of setting up partners to God in the form of his wealth, which he deems to be imperishable, and thus eternal; but also, he sets up as god his own hawā, the desire, whim, caprice, of his own soul. There is a symbiosis between one’s ‘desire’ elevated as god, on the one hand, and belief in the imperishability of one’s possessions in the world, on the other: Woe unto every slandering traducer, he who has gathered wealth and counts it; he believes that his wealth will render him immortal (104:1–3).The Qur’ān sums up the essence of salvation in terms of a polarity, one pole of which is positive, the other negative; the former defined in terms of God and the latter in terms of hawā: But as for the one who fears the station of his Lord, and restrains his soul from its hawā, verily the Garden will be his abode (79:40–41). The false god of one’s hawā is reined in and overcome in the very measure that one’s concern is with the one and only true God. Conversely, if one’s hawā is the actual source of one’s motivation, then one falls into subtle idolatry, even if belief in God is affirmed at the formal level.One only has to substitute the word ‘thirst’ (tanhā) for ‘desire’ (hawā) to see the similarities between the teachings of Buddhism and the Qur’ān on the imperative of transcending the appetites of the lower soul. The Buddhist perspective—in so rigorously negating the idea of the ultimate reality of the individual soul (anattā), in so sharply focusing upon the craving that is the source of all suffer-ing, and in so strongly stressing the impermanence (anicca) of all objects of craving in this world—can help the Muslim to discern a very similar teaching in the Qur’ān. One comes to divinize oneself through elevation of one’s ‘desire’ to the implicit status of divinity; this being an attitude which is fed by the delusion of the perma-nence of worldly possessions; and this in turn is fed by the desire.of the ego to aggrandize itself at the expense of others. The result-ing egotism ensures that the vices of pride and miserliness will be manifested instead of humility and generosity. It is not just worldly possessions that, being seen as imperishable, feed the implicit kufrand shirk of the soul; rather, these vices are fed by every single relativity to which one consciously or subconsciously attaches an absolute significance. Everything pertaining either to the world or to the ego, such as bodily satisfactions, desire for acknowledgement, thirst for praise, and even spiritual attainments: as soon as these el-ements are given disproportionate attention and importance, then one falls into the subtle forms of kufr and shirk highlighted in the Qur’ānic parable. One sees the deeper meaning of the verse: Most of them believe not in God, without being idolators (12:106). Only the utterly sincere believers—referred to as those made pure, or ren-dered sincere (mukhlas) by God—are capable of avoiding the pit-falls of subtle worldliness which are tantamount to covert shirk. In verse 38:83, Satan declares that he will ‘beguile’ every single soul, ‘except Your purified slaves’ (mukhlasūn). Satan is also instructed by God to be a ‘partner’ with human beings in their worldly goods and their children: … and be a partner in their wealth and children, and promise them: Satan promises only to beguile (17:64). For this reason, perhaps, we are told to see in our own wealth and children so many ‘temptations’ (fitna) (7:27); and that within our wives and children there are ‘enemies’ (64:14). The fundamental reason why one must beware of them is given in the following verse: O you who believe, let not your wealth nor your children distract you from the remembrance of God, Those who do, they are the losers (63:9). The remembrance of God is the best antidote to the poison of worldly attachment.Mention was made above of even ‘spiritual goods’ being a pos-sible source of subtle attachment and thus of shirk.Again, the Bud-dhist perspective helps the Muslim to become sensitive to the deeper implications contained in the parable we have been considering. The ‘gardens’ in the parable can also be understood as metaphors for spiritual fruits, cultivated by prayer, meditation and ascetic disci-pline: the proud possessor of these fruits pretentiously believes that he will not be subject to Judgement, but will rather be elevated into a greater Garden of Paradise, of which his earthly garden of spiritual fruit is a foretaste. This state of mind describes what has been aptly referred to as ‘spiritual materialism’ in the Buddhist tradition.19 In the Udumbarika Sihanāda Sutta the Buddha alerts his followers to the pitfalls of pride and ostentation which lie in wait for the re-cluse who engages in intense ascetic discipline.20 The Buddha was confronted by just such ostensibly ‘spiritual’ attitudes amongst the various pretenders to religious authority in his time. Believing that they had attained sanctity and deliverance in their life-times, delud-ed ‘eternalists’ ascribed eternity and thus divinity to their relative, transient souls, on account of the mystical powers and states they had mastered. The combined power of the doctrines of anicca and anattā dialectically exposed the hollowness of the claim to possess a soul which was at one and the same time individual and eternal.21Only the Dharma, Nirvana, Shūnya—or the Essence of God, in Is-lamic terms—is absolute, eternal and infinite; all else is transient, and thirst for the transient is the seed of suffering, as well as being the fruit of delusion. The proud possessor of the gardens in our parable can thus be seen to represent the deepest source of this kind of delusion, and not just the obvious manifestation of the delusion in the form of pride and boastfulness. This interpretation of the parable is lent support by the fact that immediately following the parable come these words: In this case is al-walāya only from God, the True… (18:44). The word walāya here is conventionally understood in the sense of ‘protection’, in accordance with the context of the literal meaning of the parable: there is no protection against destruction of one’s goods except from God. But walāya can also be understood to mean ‘sanctity’, in accor-dance with this deeper interpretation of the parable, which can be read as a reminder to all would-be saints that their spiritual attainments are of no significance unless these attainments lead to self-effacement and not self-glorification: one is to be effaced in the divine source of all sanctity, and not elevated through claiming possession of that sanc-
19. See Chogyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (Boston: Shambhala, 1973).20. As cited by Elizabeth J. Harris, Detachment and Compassion in Early Bud-dhism (Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1997), p. 4.21. It has been claimed that the Buddha did not come into contact with any realized master of the Upanishads, who understood the necessity of upholding the transcendence of Paramātman (supreme Atman, or Brahma Nirguna, Brahma ‘be-yond qualities’) vis-á-vis the jīvātman (the individual soul within which Atman immanent within the individual soul). See Ananda Coomaraswamy, Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism, op. cit., p. 199
tity as one’s own. In Buddhist terms, such a claim would be a form of ‘grasping’ (upādāna), and more specifically, attavādupādāna: grasping at a particular idea of the self,22 in this case, the idea that one’s self has achieved authenticity and realization through becoming adorned by the fruits of one’s spiritual endeavours: if I do not think that all this will ever perish, then the self which possesses ‘all this’, will likewise be deemed to be imperishable. This section can be brought to a fitting end with the penetrating words of the Shin Buddhist already cited above, Kenryo Kanamatsu, which will surely resonate with any Muslim sensitive to the need for zuhd in relation to the ‘life of the world’: ‘All our belongings assume a weight by the ceaseless gravitation of our selfish desires; we cannot easily cast them away from us. They seem to belong to our very nature, to stick to us as a second skin, and we bleed as we detach them.’23Loving Compassion: Karunā and RahmaCompassion, even on the human plane, is not just a sentiment, it is an existential quality. This existential quality presupposes a con-crete sense of participation in the suffering of others, as is expressed by the etymology of the word: com-passion means to ‘suffer with’ another. The metaphysics of unity finds its most appropriate ethi-cal expression in this quality, for when the illusion of separation is overcome, the suffering of the other becomes one’s own, and the virtues of compassion and mercy, generosity and love become the hallmarks of the character of one who has truly realized Unity. Similarly, as seen in the previous section, when self-preoccupation is overcome, together with the worldliness, subtle or overt, which feeds it, then the same qualities centered on compassionate love will flow forth naturally and spontaneously: these qualities, inherent in the spiritual substance or fitra of each soul, will no longer be con-strained or suffocated by coagulations of egotism and worldliness. Rather, compassionate love will emanate to the whole of creation, the compassionate soul will reflect and radiate the all-encompassing grace of God. Speaking of two types, those who reject God and those who believe in Him, the Qur’ān declares:
22. This is the ultimate form taken by ‘grasping’, the other three consist of kāmupādāna: grasping of sense-pleasures; ditthūpādāna, grasping of views; silabbatupādāna, grasping of rules, precepts or customs.23. Kenryo Kanamatsu, Naturalness, op. cit., p. 7.
Unto each, the former and the latter, do We extend the gra-cious gift of thy Lord. And the gracious gift of thy Lord can never be confined behind walls (17:20). This is because God’s Rahma, being infinite, can be excluded from nowhere, from nobody: My loving Compassion encompasses all things (7:156).Islam and Buddhism come together on the centrality of this quality of compassionate love, and for both traditions, this hu-man quality is inseparable from the Absolute, in which it is root-ed, and to which it leads. In this section we hope to show that the Islamic conception of Rahma makes explicit what is largely implicit in the earliest texts of the Pali canon; in this respect, it can be seen to serve a function similar to that of Mahayana Bud-dhism, wherein compassion comes to play a determinative role, elevated as the very principle, cosmological and not simply ethi-cal, which motivates the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. We would therefore argue that for both Muslims and Buddhists, the quality of loving compassion must determine the core of one’s personal-ity, and it must dominate the nature of one’s conduct in relation to others; this ideal, at once ethical and spiritual, derives its ulti-mate justification and transformative power from the fact that it expresses on the human plane a principle which is rooted in the heart of the Absolute. As is well known, in Islam one consecrates every action, and not just ritual action, with the basmala—that is, the formula Bismillāh al-Rahmān al-Rahīm, in the Name of God, the Lovingly Compassionate, the Lovingly Merciful. It is entirely appropriate that all initiative should begin with the ‘names of mercy’, for it is merciful love which lies at the very root of creation in Islam, as will be seen below.In both traditions compassion is insepa-rable from love, mettā in Buddhism24 and mahabba in Islam. In Buddhism one even finds the compound maitrī-karunā ‘love-compassion’ which expresses the intertwining of these two principles; in Islam, likewise, Rahma cannot be adequately translated by the single English word ‘compassion’ or ‘mercy’,
24. Anukampā and dayā, translated as ‘sympathy’, are closely related to the idea of compassion. See Harvey Aronson, Love and Sympathy in Theravada Buddhism(Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1980), p. 11. As Reverend Tetsuo Unno notes in his introduction to Kanamatsu’s Naturalness (p. xiii), the author uses the English word ‘love’ to translate karunā, normally translated as ‘compassion’.
but requires the addition of the element of love.25A compelling reason for translating Rahma as loving compas-sion and not just compassion—and certainly not just ‘mercy’—is provided by the Prophet’s use of this word in the following inci-dent. At the conquest of Mecca, certain captives were brought to the Prophet. There was a woman among them, running frantically and calling for her baby; she found him, held him to her breast and fed him. The Prophet said to his companions: ‘Do you think this woman would cast her child into the fire?’ We said, ‘No, she could not do such a thing.’ He said, ‘God is more lovingly compassionate (arham) to His servants than is this woman to her child.’26 The Rahma of God is here defined by reference to a quality which all can recognize as love: the mother’s acts of compassion and mercy stream forth from an overwhelming inner love for her child. One cannot love another without feeling compassionate to that person, while one can feel compassion for someone without necessarily loving that person.The Jewish scholar Ben-Shemesh goes so far as to translate the basmala as ‘In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Beloved’ to bring home this key aspect of love proper to the root of Rahma.27He argues that in both Arabic and Hebrew the meaning of love is strongly present in the root r-h-m, and gives the following evidence: Psalm number 18 contains the phrase: Erhamha Adonay—‘I love thee my Lord’.28In Aramaic/Syriac, the root r-h-m specifically denotes love, rather than ‘compassion’. One can thus feel the resonance of this Syriac connotation within the Arabic Rahma. Moreover, there is epigraphic evidence that early Christian sects in southern Arabic used the name Rahmānan as a name of God, and this would probably have been understood as ‘The Loving’.29God’s Rahma is described by the Prophet as being greater than that of the woman for her child, implying that the transcendent proto-
25. See our essay ‘God “The Loving”’, in Miroslav Volf, Ghazi bin Muhammad, Melissa Yarrington (eds.), A Common Word—Muslims and Christians on Loving God and Neighbor (Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge UK: William B. Eerd-mans, 2010).26. Bukhārī, Sahīh, kitāb al-adab, bāb 18 hadīth no. 5999 (Bukhari summarized: p. 954, no. 2014); Muslim, Sahīh, kitāb al-tawba, hadīth no. 6978.27. See A. Ben Shemesh, ‘Some Suggestions to Qur’ān Translators’, in Arabica, vol. 16, no. 1, 1969, p. 82.28. Ibid.29. See Albert Jamme, ‘Inscriptions on the Sabaean Bronze Horse of the Dumbarton Oaks Collection’, in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, vol. 8 (1954), pp. 323–324 et passim.
type of this most loving and compassionate of all human qualities is found in the divine Reality. Before examining this question any further, it is interesting to note that the Buddha refers to an almost identical image in order to bring home the meaning of mettā, the love that is inseparable from karunā. This is from a passage in the Mettā-sutta (‘Teaching on love’) in the Pali canon: Even as a mother watches over and protects her child, her only child, so with a boundless mind should one cherish all living beings, radiating friendliness over the entire world, above, below, and all around without limit. So let him cul-tivate a boundless good will towards the entire world, un-cramped, free from ill will or enmity. Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all his waking hours, let him establish this mindfulness of good will, which men call the highest state!30It is out of compassion, indeed, that the Buddha preached his Dhamma: his desire was to liberate people from suffering by enlight-ening them as to its cause, and showing them the path to eliminate that cause. It is clear, then, that even in early Buddhism compassion was not just a cardinal virtue, it went to the very heart of the Buddhist upāya, ‘expedient means’ or ‘saving strategy.’ However, it is to be noted that the Mahayana stress on compassion goes well beyond anything found in Hinayāna texts. In the latter, compassion remains fundamental and indispensable, but in Mahayana texts, it takes on altogether mythological31 dimensions, and enters into the definition of what most closely approximates the Personal God in Buddhism, namely, the Buddha of Infinite Light, Amitābha. By tracing the compassionate function of Gautama the sage back to its principial root, Mahayana Buddhism helps to solve a logical problem within the very structure of Theravada Buddhism, or at least makes explicit what is implicit in the earlier tradition. The logical problem is this: If there is no individual soul who suffers, what is the entity that can be said to receive compassion, and whence comes this compassion if the soul of the one imparting it is likewise non-existent—if the compassionate soul is but a conglomeration of empirical and psychic envelopes (skandhas), with no essential reality?Given the fact that survival after death, in heavens and hells, is clearly indicated by the
30. E. Conze, Buddhist Scriptures (Baltimore, 1968), p. 186.31. See note 65, Chapter 1, regarding the root-meaning of myth
Buddha, one has to conclude that something akin to a soul does in fact persist posthumously, and it is this ‘something’ which can either be elevated to the heavens or reduced to the hells, according to the degree to which it assimilates the teachings and acts according to the dictates of the compassionate wisdom of the Buddha. Source of CompassionBut this leaves out of account the question: what is the ultimate source of the compassion of the Buddha? A simple answer would be that this source is none other than the enlightened state itself: com-passion flows forth from the very nature of Nirvana or Shūnya. But the question remains: how does compassion spring forth from an impersonal or supra-personal state, when the very nature of compas-sion is so clearly personal, that is, it so intimately implies a personal will, actively and compassionately involved in the lives of suffering humanity, a personal will which, moreover, must at the same time be transcendent or absolute. It must be transcendent, otherwise it could not save relative beings through its compassion; but it must also as-sume a dimension of relativity, otherwise it would have no relation to living human beings. It is precisely this combination of absolute transcendence and personal compassion which is expressed in the Islamic conception of God’s Rahma and in the various heavenly Buddhas depicted in later Mahayana texts.32The principle of compassion, so perfectly embodied in Gautama the sage, infinitely transcended his own empirical individuality. As cited earlier: ‘Those who by my form did see me, and those who followed me by my voice, wrong are the efforts they engaged in; me those people will not see. From the Dharma one should see the Buddha, for the dharma-bodies are the guides.’33 The compassion proper to the Dharma is universal; Gautama the sage manifested this quality in one particular modality. This relationship between the particular and the universal is expressed in Buddhism by means of the mythology of cosmic Buddhas existing in unimaginably distant aeons prior to the earthly appearance of the Gautama. Mahayana
32. This celestial level of the manifestation of the Buddha-principle being re-ferred to as Sambhoga-kāya, in contradistinction to the Dharma-kāya—which, as noted earlier, pertains to the supra-manifest Essence—and the Nirmāna-kāya, the human form of the earthly Buddha.33. Vajracchedikā, 26a, b. Cited in Buddhist Texts Through the Ages, op. cit., p. 144.
texts therefore present a picture of a ‘Personal God’ with diverse traits—the Ādi-Buddha, Vairochana, Amitābha, etc—without whose grace and mercy, one cannot attain salvation into the ‘Pure Land’, let alone that state of Nirvana wherein the various Buddhas are all transcended. It is clear that Mahayana Buddhism comes close to the Islamic conception of divinity as regards the root of the qual-ity of compassion, and both make explicit a metaphysically irrefut-able principle, one about which the Buddha himself was silent, but which he did not contradict: compassion cannot be exhausted by its purely human manifestation; on the contrary, it derives all its power and efficacy from its supra-human, absolute or ‘divine’ source. This source is transcendent, but insofar as it radiates towards all crea-tures, it assumes a ‘personal’ dimension, for it consists of an active, conscious and loving will to save all creatures: to speak of such a will is to speak of some kind of ‘person’ directing that will. In one respect, then, this can be seen as a personalization of the Absolute, bestowing upon the pure, ineffable Absolute a personal or anthropomorphic dimension, a dimension without which it cannot enter into engagement with human persons. For the pure Absolute has no relation whatsoever with any conceiv-able relativity. But this personal dimension does not in any way diminish the absoluteness of the Absolute. For the manifestation of such qualities as compassion, love, and mercy does not exhaust the nature of the Principle thus manifested. As stressed before, the Absolute is the Essence, transcending the Names and Quali-ties which are assumed by the Absolute in its relationship with the world; transcending these Names and Qualities implies tran-scending those ‘personal’ dimensions of God which, precisely, are designated by the Names and Qualities. In this way, the Islamic synthesis between two conceptions of God can be seen as analo-gous to the Mahayana-Hinayāna polarity within Buddhism. For the personal and supra-personal aspects of Allāh, comprising all the qualities designated by all of the divine Names, are in perfect harmony and perfect synchronicity. There is no contradiction between asserting on the one hand that the Essence of God infi-nitely transcends all conceivable ‘personal’ qualities, and on the other, that God assumes these personal qualities for the sake of entering into compassionate, enlightening and saving relationship with His creatures. This Islamic synthesis can help to show that what has been called Mahayana ‘theism’ in no way compromises early Buddhism’s insistence on the transcendence of the Dhamma/Nirvana/Shūnya vis-à-vis all conceivable qualities.Oneness and CompassionIslam also helps to answer the question which might be posed to a Buddhist: what is the connection between the metaphysics of unity—in terms of which there appears to be no ‘other’, no ‘dualism’, Samsaraand Nirvana being one—and the quality of compassion—which logi-cally presupposes both an agent and a recipient of compassion, thus, a duality? Or it might be asked: is there a contradiction between the absolute transcendence of Reality, and the compassionate manifes-tation of this Reality? We would answer in terms of Islamic meta-physics that the oneness of Reality strictly implies compassion. For the oneness of God is not simply exclusive, it is also inclusive—it is both Ahad and Wāhid, it is both transcendent and immanent. As al-Wāhid, all-inclusive oneness, God encompasses all things, whence such divine Names as al-Wasi‘, ‘the Infinitely Capacious’ and al-Muhīt, ‘the All-Encompassing’. Now it is from this all-embracing dimension of divine reality that compassion springs: for it is not just as being or knowledge, presence or immanence, that God encompasses all, it is also as Rahma: My Rahma encompasses all things, as we saw above. The angels, indeed, give priority to God’s Rahma over His knowledge (‘Ilm)when addressing Him as the one who encompasses all things: You encompass all things in Rahma and ‘Ilm (40:7).34It might still be objected: God is certainly ‘merciful’ but He should not be called ‘compassionate’ as He does not ‘suffer’ with any creature. Mercy, it will be argued, is the more appropriate word by which to translate Rahma.One may reply as follows: insofar as compassion is a human virtue, it cannot but be rooted in a divine quality; it is this divine quality of Rahma which serves as the transcendent archetype of the human virtue of compassion. The relationship between this divine quality and its human reflec-tion is characterised by two apparently contradictory principles: similarity (tashbīh) and incomparability (tanzīh). Thus, in respect
34. It is interesting to note that in Tibetan Buddhism, there is likewise a cer-tain priority of compassion over knowledge, as far as the manifestation of these qualities is concerned on earth, for the Dalai Lama, representing the Bodhisattva of compassion (Chenrezig, the Tibetan name of Avalokiteshvara) has priority over the Panchen Lama, who represents the Buddha of Light (Opagmed, the Tibetan name for Amitābha). See M. Pallis, The Way and the Mountain (London: Peter Owen, 1991), pp. 161–162.
of tashbīh, God as ‘The Compassionate’ can metaphorically be said to manifest sympathy for us in our suffering; and it is out of this ‘com-passion or ‘sym-pathy’ that He graciously lifts us out of our suffering. However this conception needs its complement: the point of view deriving from the principle of tanzīh: inasmuch as the quality designated by ‘The Compassionate’ has no self-subsistent essence, but subsists solely through the Essence as such, it cannot possibly be subject to any relativity. The inner dimension of this divine quality must perforce transcend the sphere within which suffering and other such relativities are situated, failing which it would not be a tran-scendent quality, that is: one that is rooted in the utter transcendence of the divine Essence. Conversely, on the human plane, compassion as Rahma is evi-dently a virtue which one must acquire and cultivate; it must there-fore be present in God, failing which our human quality of compas-sion would lack any divine principle, compassion would then be a human effect without a divine cause. This is made clear in the pro-phetic saying on the Rahma of the mother for her child: human com-passion is akin to the compassion of God for all creatures, except that divine compassion is absolute and infinite, while human com-passion is relative and finite. The essence of the quality is one and the same, only its ontological intensity, or mode of manifestation, is subject to gradation. The aspect of transcendence proper to God implies that this attribute, when ascribed to God, has an absolute and infinite qual-ity, in contrast to the relative, finite participation in that quality by human beings. In the human context, then, compassion manifests two things: a virtue whose essence is divine, on the one hand, and a human capacity to suffer, on the other. In the divine context, the transcendent source of human compassion is affirmed, but the sus-ceptibility to suffering which accompanies the human condition, is totally absent. As between the human virtue and the divine quality—or simply: between the human and the divine—there is both essen-tial continuity and existential discontinuity, analogical participation and ontological distinction, tashbīh and tanzīh.Another way of resolving the apparent contradiction between divine compassion and divine unity is provided by al-Ghazālī. If compassion be understood as a mode of love, then one can refor-mulate the question and ask whether it is possible to ascribe love to God: can God be susceptible to desire for His creatures, when He possesses perfectly and infinitely all that He could possibly desire? Can the Absolute desire the relative? Al-Ghazālī addresses this question, first in theological mode, and then in terms of meta-physics of oneness, from the point of view of ma‘rifa. One can legitimately apply the same word, love (mahabba), both to man and to God; but the meaning of the word changes depending on the agent of love. Human love is defined as an inclination (mayl) of the soul towards that which is in harmony with it, beauty both outward and inward, seeking from another soul the consumma-tion of love. Through this love it attains completeness, a mode of perfection which cannot be attained within itself. Such love, al-Ghazālī asserts, cannot be ascribed to God, in whom all perfec-tions are infinitely and absolutely realized. However, one can say that God loves His creatures, from a higher, metaphysical point of view. God’s love is absolutely real, but His love is not for any ‘other’ being or entity. Rather, it is for Himself: for His own Es-sence, qualities and acts, this constituting the entirety of being. Hence, when the Qur’ān asserts that ‘He loves them’ (5:54), this means that ‘God does indeed love them [all human souls], but in reality He loves nothing other than Himself, in the sense that He is the totality [of being], and there is nothing in being apart from Him.’35Al-Ghazālī demonstrates that God is the entirety of being by reference to the holy utterance cited earlier: ‘My slave draws near to Me through nothing I love more than that which I have made obliga-tory for him. My slave never ceases to draw near to Me through supererogatory acts until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing by which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand by which he grasps, and his foot by which he walks.’It is the saint, the walī Allāh (literally: friend of God), who comes to understand the reality that God alone is—that there is no reality but the divine reality—and this understanding comes through effacement, fanā’, in that reality, and this, in turn is the function of God’s love: ‘My slave never ceases to draw near … until I love him.’ It is from this divine love that the saint comes to see that God loves all creatures, and that the reality of this love is constituted by God’s infinite love of Himself. This love is ex-
35. Al-Ghazālī is here citing the saying of Shaykh Sa‘īd al-Mayhinī. This is from ‘The Book of love and longing and intimacy and contentment’ of his Ihyā’, book 6, part 4, vol. 5, p. 221.
pressed not just by the term mahabba but also by Rahma, which encompasses all things.* * *It may appear at first sight that such metaphysical and cosmic di-mensions of compassion in Islam can only compared with similar dimensions within Mahayana Buddhism. The Theravada teachings on compassion seem to be more psychological and individual than cosmic and universal. For example, reading the following text, one might think that compassion is exhausted by one dimension only: the compassion inherent in the teaching of the Dhamma.‘I will teach you, brethren, the Uncompounded and the way going to the Uncompounded. Now what, brethren, is the Un-compounded? The destruction of lust, of hatred, of delusion, brethren, is called the Uncompounded. And what, brethren, is the way going to the Uncompounded? It is mindfulness relating to the sphere of the body that is so called. Thus, brethren, have I shown you the Uncompounded, and the way going to it. Whatever can be done by a teacher desirous of the welfare of his disciples, out of compassion for them, that have I done for you, brethren.’36But this dimension should be seen only as the ultimate pedagogical form taken by compassion, and it does not exclude, still less deny, the cosmic and universal dimensions of compassion. For example, also in the Pali canon we find such passages as the following:May all beings be at ease, secure;May they all be happy in heart.Whoever is a breathing being,Stable or unstable without exception,Long or those who are large,Medium, short, subtle gross.Visible or invisible, distant or near.Beings or those yet to be born,May they all be happy in heart.37Here one observes that the moral quality of compassion is to be extended to all beings without exception, and surpasses pedagogi-
36. Samyutta Nikāya, 4:359. Cited in Some Buddhist Sayings, op. cit., p. 322.37. Khuddaka Pātha, 8–9. Cited by Phra Soonthorndhammathada in Compas-sion in Buddhism and Purānas (Delhi: Nag Publishers, 1995), p. 94
cal or psychological or individual modalities. Here, we find a reso-nance with Islam, for if God’s Rahma encompasses all, if His grace is bestowed on both those who reject Him and accept Him, the Mus-lim likewise must reflect this divine quality and be compassionately predisposed to all beings: one must possess, in other words, a com-passionate ‘prejudice’, which is one application of a principle of inter-personal relations very strongly emphasized in the corpus of prophetic sayings: one must always have, as an a priori disposition towards one’s fellow beings, ‘a good opinion’ (husn al-zann), rather than its opposite, sū’ al-zann, suspicion.Likewise from the Pali canon, we find this expression of the all-encompassing nature of compassion: ‘Making the whole world of beings the object of these minds endowed with compassion, we will continue to relate to the whole world with minds that are like the earth—untroubled, free from enmity, vast, enlarged and mea-sureless (appamāna).’38 Similarly, the Buddha taught his followers to cultivate compassion so that they come to resemble ‘space which cannot be painted’, or ‘the Ganges which cannot be burned.’39The Buddha defined ‘liberation of the mind’ quite simply as ‘compassion’ (Anguttara Nikāya, 1:4). It is interesting to read the traditional commentary on this, Manorathapūrnī: The liberation of the mind is love and compassion. It is com-passion as it relates to all sentient beings with the wish for their welfare … since the mind conjoined with compassion is liberated from all adverse factors such as the hindrances [nivārana: sense-desire, anger, agitation, laziness, doubt] and so forth, it is called a liberation of the mind.40Here we see that compassion is not just expressed by the teacher enlightening his disciple; it is here seen to be a factor disposing one to enlightenment, thus, a subjective condition for engaging with the meditative means of enlightenment rather than only an objec-tive transmission of those means of enlightenment. So, before being capable of eliminating one’s own suffering through enlightenment, one has to feel compassion for the suffering of all others. This universal compassion is referred to by the Buddha as the ‘soil’ within which concentration is to be cultivated. But it is also the
38. Majjhima Nikāya, 1:27. Cited in Compassion in Buddhism, op. cit., p. 93.39. Ibid., p. 93.40. Cited in Compassion in Buddhism, op. cit.,‚pp. 83–84
fruit of awakenment with awareness, for even when full enlightenment is attained, this meditative compassion for all is permanently maintained as a feature of the mind of the enlightened one.41Rahma as CreatorTurning now to another aspect of compassion, that of its creative power, we see again that what is left implicit in early Buddhism is rendered altogether explicit both in Islam and in such Mahayana traditions as Jodo Shin. In both traditions, the Creator is nothing other than the ‘All-Compassionate’, or the ‘All-Loving’; but whereas this conception is enshrined in the very heart of the Qur’ān, it emerges in Buddhism only in certain Mahayana traditions. As was noted above, the Muslim consecrates every important action with the utterance of the basmala, the phrase: Bismillāh al-Rahmān al-Rahīm, in the Name of God, the Lovingly Compas-sionate, the Lovingly Merciful. This formula also initiates each of the 114 chapters of the Qur’ān (except one). It is altogether appro-priate that all ritual and significant action be initiated with a recol-lection of the compassionate source of creation. In terms of the two divine Names deriving from the root of Rahma, the first, al-Rahmān is normally used to refer to the creative power of Rahma, and the second, al-Rahīm, to its salvific power. Combining these two prop-erties of loving compassion, the creative and redemptive, one sees that ultimately nothing can escape or be separated from God’s all-embracing Rahma. This is why calling upon al-Rahmān is tanta-mount to calling upon God: Call upon Allāh or call upon al-Rahmān (17:110). If al-Rahmān is so completely identified with the very substance of God, then it follows that the Rahma which so quintes-sentially defines the divine nature is not simply ‘mercy’ or ‘compas-sion’ but is rather the infinite love and perfect beatitude of ultimate reality, which overflows into creation in the myriad forms assumed by mercy and compassion, peace and love.Rahma is thus to be understood primarily in terms of a love which gives of itself: what it gives is what it is, transcendent beati-tude, which creates out of love, and, upon contact with Its creation, assumes the nature of loving compassion and mercy, these being the dominant motifs of the relationship between God and the world. As was seen above, God’s transcendent Rahma is alluded to by the Prophet in terms of the most striking expression of Rahma on
41. Anguttara Nikāya, 1:181–184, cited in ibid., p. 97
earth—that expressed by a mother who, after searching frantically for her baby, clutches it to her breast and feeds it.As was cited above: Call upon Allāh or call upon al-Rahmān; whichever you call upon, unto Him belong the most beautiful names(17:110). It should be noted in this verse that all the names are de-scribed as ‘most beautiful’, including therefore all the names of rigour as well as those of gentleness. But the most important point to note here is that the name al-Rahmān is practically co-terminous with the name Allāh, indicating that the quality of loving mercy takes us to the very heart of the divine nature. In two verses we are told that Rahma is ‘written’ upon the very Self of God: He has written mercy upon Himself (6:12); Your Lord has written mercy upon Himself (6:54). The word kataba, ‘he wrote’, implies a kind of inner prescription, so that Rahma can be understood as a kind of inner law governing the very nafs, the Self or Essence of God. The use of the image of ‘writing’ here can be seen as a metaphor for expressing the metaphysical truth that Rahma is as it were ‘inscribed’ within the deepest reality of the divine nature. God’s ‘inscription’ upon Himself is thus God’s descrip-tion of Himself, of His own deepest nature. The creative aspect of the divine Rahma is vividly brought home in the chapter entitled ‘al-Rahmān’ (Sūra 55); it is al-Rahmānwho taught the Qur’ān, created man, taught him discernment(verses 2–4). The whole of this chapter evokes and invokes the real-ity of this quintessential quality of God. The blessings of Paradise are described here in the most majestic and attractive terms; but so too are the glories, beauties and harmonies of God’s entire cosmos, including all the wonders of virgin nature, these verses being musi-cally punctuated by the refrain: so which of the favours of your Lord can you deny? In this chapter named after al-Rahmān, then, we are invited to contemplate the various levels at which Rahma fashions the substance of reality: the Rahma that describes the deepest nature of the divine; the Rahma that is musically inscribed into the very rec-itation of the chapter; the Rahma that creates all things; the Rahma that reveals itself through the Qur’ān and through all the signs (āyāt) of nature. One comes to see that God has created not only byRahma, and fromRahma but also forRahma: … except those upon whom God has mercy: for this did He create them (11:119); and within Rahma: My Rahma encompasses all things (7:156).Combining these two properties of loving compassion, the cre-ative and redemptive, or the ontological and salvific, we see why it is that ultimately nothing can escape or be separated from God’s all-embracing Rahma, which is the divine matrix containing the cosmos. The word ‘matrix’ should be taken quite literally, in relation to its root: ‘mother’. The word for womb, rahim, derives from the same root as Rahma. The entire cosmos is not just brought into being by Rahma, it is perpetually encompassed by Rahma which nourishes it at every instant, as the mother’s womb nourishes and encompasses the embryo growing within it. As we saw above, the Tathāgatagarbha, literally means: the ‘womb’ of the Tathāgata, the ‘one thus gone’. This womb or matrix not only contains all things, it is also contained within the soul, being one with the immanent Buddha-nature (Buddhadhatu) which each individual must strive to realize.The analogy evoked by this etymological relationship between maternal love and the compassionate matrix of creation is mysteri-ously implied in the chapter of the Qur’ān named after the Blessed Virgin, the Sūrat Maryam (chapter 19). For in this chapter we notice that the name al-Rahmān is mentioned repeatedly as a virtual syn-onym for God: the Blessed Virgin seeks refuge in al-Rahmān (19:18), she consecrates her fast to al-Rahmān (19:26), Satan is described as the enemy of al-Rahmān (19:44), when the verses revealed by al-Rahmān are recited, the Prophets fall down prostrate (19:58), and so on. The name al-Rahmān is repeated no less than 16 times—more times than in any other chapter of the Qur’ān. Since this name occurs altogether 57 times in the sūras of the Qur’ān (apart from its occurrence at the head of every chapter but one), this means that the Sūrat Maryam contains more than one quarter of all the instances in which the name al-Rahmān comes in the Qur’ān.42These considerations help to substantiate the point made above: that in the Islamic worldview, God’s Rahma is not just mercy; rather it is the infinite love and overflowing beatitude of ultimate reality, one of whose manifestations is mercy. In this light, one can better appreci-ate such perspectives as the following, within Jodo Shin Buddhism: The innertruth is: ‘From the Eternal Love do all beings have their birth’.43
42. The name al-Rahīm occurs 95 times, apart from its occurrence in the basmala. The root, r-h-m and its derivatives occurs 375 times, not including the 114 instances of the basmala.43. Kenryo Kanamatsu, Naturalness—A Classic of Shin Buddhism, op. cit., p. 113.
Such a statement articulates a dimension of causality left completely out of account by the earlier Buddhist scriptures, where the entire emphasis was on escape from the round of births and deaths. The only important point about the ‘birth’ of beings was the existence of the ‘unborn’ to which one must flee for refuge: the process by which beings were born was thus seen as a process of enslavement to the ineluctability of suffering and death. In Mahayana Buddhism, however, one can find expressions of love and compassion which are identified with the creative power of the Absolute. This passage from Naturalness shows that the Absolute reveals its ‘Eternal Life’ through the dimension of its ‘Great Compassion’:Amida is the Supreme Spirit from whom all spiritual revela-tions grow, and to whom all personalities are related. Amida is at once the Infinite Light (Amitābha) and the Eternal Life (Amitāyus). He is at once the Great Wisdom (Mahāprajna: daichi)—the Infinite Light—and the Great Compassion (Mahākaruna: daihi)—the Eternal Life. The Great Com-passion is creator while the Great Wisdom contemplates.44Some lines later, we read about the unitive power of love; this can be compared with the compassionate love which is spiritually required and logically implied by the metaphysics of tawhīd: ‘In love … the sense of difference is obliterated and the human heart fulfils its in-herent purpose in perfection, transcending the limits of itself and reaching across the threshold of the spirit-world.’45In love, the sense of difference is obliterated: the unity of be-ing, which may be conceptually understood through knowledge, is spiritually realized through love, whose infinite creativity overflows into a compassion whose most merciful act is to reveal this very oneness. To return to al-Ghazālī: the perfect and eternal love of God creates the human being in a disposition which ever seeks proximity to Him, and furnishes him with access to the pathways leading to the removal of the veils separating him from God, such that he comes to ‘see’ God by means of God Himself. ‘And all this is the act of God, and a grace bestowed upon him [God’s creature]: and such is what is meant by God’s love of him.’46 This enlightening grace of God towards His creatures is constitutive of His love for them, a love
44. Ibid., p. 63.45. Ibid., p. 64.46. Al-Ghazālī, Ihyā’, op. cit., pp. 221–222.
which in reality is nothing other than His love for Himself. Human love and compassion, by means of which the sense of difference is obliterated between self and other, can thus be seen as a unitive reflection herebelow of the oneness of the love of God for Himself within Himself. Absolute compassion and transcendent oneness, far from being mutually exclusive are thus harmoniously integrated in an uncompromisingly unitive tawhīd.The compassion which we have been examining is clearly an overflow of the beatitude which defines an essential aspect of ulti-mate Reality, the oneness of which embraces all things by virtue of this compassion, precisely. Inward beatitude, proper to the One, and outward compassion, integrating the many, is a subtle and impor-tant expression of the spiritual mystery of tawhīd. We observe in this affirmation of tawhīd another conceptual resonance between the two traditions, a resonance made clear by the following verses of Milarepa:Without realizing the truth of Many-Being-One Even though you meditate on the Great Light,You practice but the View-of-Clinging.Without realizing the unity of Bliss and Void,Even though on the Void you meditate,You practice only nihilism.47The truth of ‘Many-Being-One’ can be read as a spiritual expression of tawhīd, and mirrors many such expressions in Islamic mysticism, indeed, the literal meaning of tawhīd being precisely a dynamic integration, not just a static oneness. It is derived from the form of the verb, wahhada, meaning ‘to make one’. Phenomenal diversity is thus integrated into principial unity by means of the vision unfold-ing from this understanding of tawhīd. In these verses, Milarepa tells one of his disciples that however much he may meditate on the supernal Light, if he regards that Light as being separate from all things by way of transcendence, then he cannot realize the imma-nence of that Light in all that exists, that immanence by virtue of which the ‘many’ become ‘one’, the ‘face’ of reality being visible in everything that exists. In the absence of this vision, then medita-tion on the Light results only in ‘clinging’—clinging, that is, to a false distinction between the One and the many, a duality which will imprison the meditator within the realm of multiplicity. It is
47. The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 526.
when Milarepa addresses the intrinsic nature of the Void, however, that the similarity with the Islamic conception of the beatific rahmaof God emerges in a striking manner. ‘Without realizing the unity of Bliss and Void’, any meditation on the Void is but nihilistic. The Void is intrinsically blissful, or it is not the Void. We saw earlier that Nirvana and the Void (Shūnya) are essentially one, the term Nirvanastressing the blissful nature of the state wherein one is conscious of the Absolute, and the term ‘Void’ stressing the objective nature of the Absolute, transcending all things are ‘full’—of false being. Milarepa’s verse makes clear this identity of essence, and shows moreover that it is precisely because the Void is overflowing with beatitude that the experience of the Void cannot but be blissful: it is far from a nihilistic negation of existence and thought. Knowing and experiencing the beatitude of the Void thus cannot but engender in the soul a state of being reflecting this beatitude, and a wish to share that beatitude with all beings: such a wish being the very essence of compassion, which is not simply a capacity to feel the suffer-ing of others as one’s own—which articulates one level of ethical tawhīd—but also, at a higher level of tawhīd, a capacity to bring that suffering to an end through making accessible the mercy and felicity ever-flowing from ultimate Reality. This is the message—which is immediately intelligible to any Muslim—of the following verses of Milarepa:If in meditation you still tend to strive,Try to arouse for all a great compassion,Be identified with the All-Merciful.48Here, we see the All-Merciful being identified with Absolute Real-ity, referred to earlier as the Void, but here, the character of the Void is clearly affirmed as infinite mercy. To identify with this mercy is to identify with the Absolute; arousing for all ‘a great compassion’ means infusing into one’s soul a quality which reflects the infinite compassion of the Absolute. One from whom compassion flows to all is one in whom ‘the overflowing Void-Compassion’, as Milarepa calls it in another verse, has been realized: it ceaselessly overflows from the Absolute to the relative, and to the extent that one has made oneself ‘void’ for its sake, one becomes a vehicle for the transmis-sion of the Compassion of the Void:
48. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 561.
Rechungpa, listen to me for a moment.From the centre of my heart streamGlowing beams of light.…This shows the unity of mercy and the Void.49* * *To conclude this section, it may be objected that however remarkable be the similarities between the Islamic and the Jodo Shin concep-tions of the loving compassion that articulates the creativity of the Absolute, Jodo Shin cannot be taken as representative of the broad Buddhist tradition, and is rather an exception proving the rule. To this, we would reply that the Jodo Shin presentation of this crucial theme—God as Creator through compassion—does not prove that the two traditions of Islam and Buddhism can be crudely equated as regards this theme; rather, it simply demonstrates that the differ-ences between the Islamic conception of God as Creator through compassion and the Buddhist silence on the question of such a Cre-ator need not be seen as the basis for a reciprocal rejection. Rather, the very fact that at least one Buddhist school of thought affirms the idea of a compassionate Creator shows that there is no absolute incompatibility between the two traditions as regards this principle. There is no need to claim that the principle plays an analogous role in both traditions, far from it: definitive, central and inalienable in Islam; and conceivable, possible, and, at least, not absolutely unde-niable in Buddhism.
49. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 445.
Epilogue The Common Ground of Sanctity
The following passage from the Prajnopāyaviniscayasiddhi, an important text in the Mahayana tradition, expresses that dazzling combination of wisdom and compassion, knowledge of the One and compassion for all beings, which constitutes the essence of sanc-tity.The non-substantiality of things which is realized by reflec-tion and by discriminating between the act of knowing and what is known, is called the essence of Wisdom. Because one is passionately devoted to all beings who have failed to extricate themselves from a whole flood of suffering, this passionate devotion, of which their suffering is the cause, is known as Compassion. In that, one thereby brings a man to the desired end by a combination of appropriate measures; it is also called the Means (upāya).The mingling of both [wisdom and compassion] is known as Wisdom-Means in a union free of duality. It is the essence of Dharma, to which nothing may be added and from which nothing may be withdrawn. It is free from the two notions of subject and object, free from being and non-being, from characterizing and characteristics; it is pure and immaculate in its own nature. Neither duality nor non-duality, calm and tranquil, it consists in all things, motion-less and unflurried; such is Wisdom-Means, which may be known intuitively. It is this that is called the supreme and wondrous abode of all Buddhas, the Dharma-sphere, the divine cause of the perfection of bliss. It is Nirvana Inde-terminate (apratisthitanirvāna) … it is the blissful stage of self-consecration (svadhithāna), the beatitude of the perfec-tion of Wisdom. The three Buddha-bodies, the three Bud-dhist vehicles, mantras in their innumerable thousands … phenomenal existence and that which transcends it, arise from the same source … It is called the Great Bliss … the Supreme One, the Universal Good, the producer of Perfect Enlightenment. The great sages define this truth, which is the supreme bliss of self and others, as the union of limitless Compassion—which is intent alone on the destruction of the world’s suffering—and of perfect Wisdom, which is free from all attachment, and is an accumulation of knowledge which may not be reckoned, so great is its diversity’.1The perfect realization of oneness, together with its concomi-tants of wisdom and compassion, is expressed in the very definition of sanctity or walāya, cited above:My slave draws near to Me through nothing I love more than that which I have made obligatory for him. My slave never ceases to draw near to Me through supererogatory acts until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing by which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand by which he grasps, and his foot by which he walks.God’s love is at one with His compassion, which in turn is ‘written’ upon His very Self; when God so loves His slave that He hears, sees and acts through him, then the substance of all that comes from such a being can only be divine love in union with perfect knowledge. It is this combination of wisdom and love at the highest and deepest levels which arises out of the realization of tawhīd, which is not just affirming one, but ‘realizing one’, making real the One both tran-scendent and immanent. This transmission of divine reality through the saint implies no compromise as regards the principle of divine transcendence. On the contrary, the saint provides the most dramatic and irrefutable evidence of the most radical tawhīd; only the saint can do this, for he alone is truly effaced before God, and it is by virtue of this effacement that the divine Face manifests through him: the spotless mirror of the saint’s heart faithfully reflects the Face of God whose infinite transcendence is rendered no less transcendent by vir-tue of this dazzling reflection on earth. This perfect reflection of the divine Face transmits the essential quality of the divine nature, not just the love by virtue of which the saint comes to hear and see and act through God, but also loving compassion, that Rahma which is inscribed in the very Self of God. The saint thus comes to participate in the process by which divine compassion and the divine knowledge embrace all things: You encompass all things in loving compassion and knowledge (40:7).Divine knowledge or wisdom is thus insepa-rable from divine compassion: to plumb the essence of the one is to
1. Prajnopāyaviniscayasiddhi, ch. 1–3; cited in Buddhist Texts, op. cit., pp. 241–242.
enter into the essence of the other. When the Prophet is described as a rahma for the whole of creation (21:107), this implies that he is like-wise a source of wisdom for the whole of creation. The saint is able, in the measure of his effacement before the Face of God, to participate in this holy embrace of the whole of creation by the qualities, at once prophetic and divine, of wisdom and compassion.* * *The common ground upon which the spiritual traditions of Islam and Buddhism stand together is the principle of absolute oneness, that to which the revealed texts of both traditions bear witness, and the re-alization of which, by the individual soul, here and now, constitutes the ultimate goal of both religions. It is in relation to the concomi-tants of oneness that holiness or sanctity is defined in both religions: oneness demands perfect knowledge, which in turn requires the total effacement of oneself within that knowledge, and the unconditional gift of oneself to others in compassion. The saint—the walī in Islam and the Arahat/Bodhisattva in Buddhism—represents the summit of human perfection; it is in the saint that the deepest aims of religion are consummated in the world; it is by the saint that the religion is realized in all its plenitude; it is through the saint that the holiness of the religion is most palpably experienced. Theory and practice, concept and realization, spiritual ideals and human realities—all are united in the person of the saint. The two basic dimensions of holiness—vertical and horizontal, metaphysical and ethical, divine and human—can be seen to define the essential common ground bringing together Islam and Buddhism in a common aspiration for the One.
Buddha in Qur’an ?
by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
When Buddhism and Islam are considered together, some see it as a matter of comparing apples and oranges. Upon deeper examina-tion, there is—like the two savory grown-on-trees, seeds-in-the-flesh fruit—much which the two faiths have in common. Buddhism sees itself as a reformist movement that emerged from the preceding Hindu tradition. Similarly, Islam sees itself as a reformist movement, one that emerged from the preceding Abrahamic traditions and in re-sponse to perceived Jewish and Christian spiritual dissipation. Both Buddhism and Islam have universalist claims, with strong core doc-trines, such as the five pillars and six articles of faith in Islam, and the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path in Buddhism. But perhaps most significant is that both are rooted in deeply rich ethical canons that consider kindness, compassion, and mercy as the core human qualities to be nurtured. In his talks throughout the world, the Dalai Lama emphasises similar virtues and the Qur’an calls the Prophet Muhammad “a mercy to all the worlds” (21:107).While many similarities can be discerned, there is also a shared history that has been mutually beneficial for both traditions, espe-cially for the Muslims, because it prompted them to discuss how to deal—theologically and legally—with religions they had newly encountered. When the early Muslim dynasties conquered lands in Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, not to mention the Indian sub-continent, they found large Buddhist populations, and they looked the Qur’an and the Sunnah for guidance.The Qur’an discusses categories of belief in the Surahs entitled, “The Pilgrimage,” which is one of the most important surahs deal-ing with other faiths and beliefs, and it contains several verses that
1. The Sunnah is the normative practice of the Prophet Muhammad . For ex-ample, it was the Sunnah of the Prophet to take an afternoon nap. The Arabic word sunnah is derived from a root meaning “way, practice.” The Prophet said, ³, KDYH OHIW IRU \RX WZR WKLQJV WKH 4XU¶ƗQ DQG P\ 6XQQDK LI \RX FOLQJ WR WKHP \RX ZLOO QRW JR DVWUD\ ́ QDUUDWHG E\ ,PDP 0ƗOLN LQ DO 0XZDWWƗ¶). The Sunnah is derived from the words, actions, and tacit approvals and disapprovals of the Prophet . It is the second most important source of authority and legislation in ,VODP DIWHU WKH 4XU¶ƗQ 6XUDK UHIHUV WR D FKDSWHU LQ WKH 4XU¶ƗQ 7KH $UDELF ZRUG VnjUDK is derived from a root meaning “wall, form,” as each surah’s function is to wall in and provide form WR RQH VHFWLRQ RI WKH 4XU¶ƗQ
directly address religious diversity.3 The most definitive verse of this surah in this regard distinguishes between six categories of religious belief, and Muslim exegetes have traditionally placed all religions and sects into one of these six: “As for the Muslims, the Jews, the Sabians, the Christians, the Magians, and the polytheists, God will decide among them on the day of resurrection” (22:17). The weighty import of this verse is that it is theologically prohibited for us to con-demn any individual, irrespective of his or her faith, to damnation or punishment in the afterlife because ultimate judgment belongs to God alone. Many hadith4 and statements of the companions of the Prophet also affirm this fundamental article of faith. So where did Muslims traditionally place the Buddhists among WKHVH VL[ FDWHJRULHV” 8QOLNH PDQ\ PRGHUQ 0XVOLPV ZKR FRQVLGHU Buddhists to be among the polytheists, believing them to be idola-tors due to the profusion of images and statues of the Buddha, early Muslim scholars of comparative religion had a very different view. They held a favorable opinion of Buddhists and marveled at the pro-found spirituality of Buddhist practitioners. In classical Muslim literature on religions and sects, we find many references to “al-Badadah,” meaning the Buddhists, as well DV WR ³DO %XGG ́ WKH %XGGKD KLPVHOI ,EQ DO 1DGƯP G DQ ,UDTL bookseller and author of the famouswork entitled The Compendium (DO )LKULVW), who catalogued existing authors and their subjects of study, records books that deal with Buddhism, including The Life of Buddha (.LWƗE DO %XGG). In his chapter entitled “Notes on the Bud-GKD ́ ,EQ DO 1DGƯP GHOLQHDWHV WKH GLIIHUHQW VFKRODUO\ YLHZV RI WKH Buddha: some believed he was the divine incarnate,5 while others
6HH WKH VHFWLRQ HQWLWOHG ³4XU¶ƗQLF SUHPLVHV RI GLDORJXH ́ SS LQ 5H]D Shah-Kazemi’s text for further discussion of this theme.4. The hadith are statements attributed to the Prophet Muhammad by which his Sunnah is known. They constitute the sayings of the Prophet as well as the sayings of his companions that narrate his actions or descriptions. The hadith are considered an authoritative source of legislation and constitute a major source RI JXLGDQFH IRU 0XVOLPV VHFRQG RQO\ WR WKH 4XU¶ƗQ 7KH\ ZHUH RULJLQDOO\ RUDOO\ transmitted and passed down using a rigorous method of authentication and were compiled from the beginning of the latter part of the first century of the Islamic era into the fourth century.5. While there are some Buddhists who see the Buddha as a divine being, which for Muslims would constitute clear idolatry (VKLUN), many Buddhists do not. Mu Soeng comments, “For the Sthaviras, the Buddha Shakyamuni was a historical personage—a great teacher but not a divinity.” While Mahayana expressions of devotion can be construed as idolatrous, Theravada Buddhism is less so, but Bu
FODLPHG KH ZDV D PHVVHQJHU RI *RG VWLOO RWKHUV WKRXJKW %XGGKD WR be a generic name for those who guided others onto the right path. He describes the extraordinary images of the Buddha in Bamiyan, (in what is today called Afghanistan), and writes that statues of the Buddha were brought from there to Baghdad. He also mentions the Nava Vihara monastery, the famous site of pilgrimage in the same region that was visited by Buddhists from far and wide, by land and by sea. He writes of the Golden Temple that he learned of from an Indian source he trusted, who said that pilgrims seeking cures found that upon seeing the temple, God healed their ailments.6Perhaps the most significant classical Muslim description RI %XGGKLVP LV IRXQG LQ ,PDP 0XKDPPDG E μ$EG DO .DUƯP DO 6KDKUDVWƗQƯ¶V G FRPSUHKHQVLYH VXUYH\ HQWLWOHG Religions and Sects (al-Milal wa al-nihal ,PDP DO 6KDKUDVWƗQƯ ZDV D QRWDEOH 6KDILμƯ MXULVW $VKμDUƯ WKHRORJLDQ DQG DXWKRU RI WKH PRVW FHOHEUDWHG and cited work on comparative religion in the pre-modern Islamic tradition.7In this work, he also makes a rather stunning—and intriguing—VWDWHPHQW FRQQHFWLQJ WKH %XGGKD WR D FKDUDFWHU LQ WKH 4XU¶ƗQ ***Before we explore that assertion, it is worth noting that Imam al-6KDKUDVWƗQƯ LGHQWLILHV WKH %XGGKLVWV DV 6DELDQV ZKLFK LV D FRQVH-quential categorization, given the status that Sabians have in the 4XU¶ƗQ DV D VDYHG JURXS 7KH URRW ZRUG RI 6DELDQV LV VDED¶, which is “the rising of a star.” Most exegetes explain that the Sabians wor-shipped the stars because they believed the stars are vehicles by which God organizes the world. In several commentaries, the Sabi-ans are also described as believing in reincarnation and the eternity
dhist priests have historically tolerated devotional expressions that often had their roots in previous idolatrous traditions of the peoples they encountered. Cha’n Bud-dhism rejects all forms of idolatry openly and in practice. See for further discussion 6KDK.D]HPL¶VWH[WVHFWLRQHQWLWOHG³7KH%XGGKDDV0HVVHQJHU ́SSDQG³,PDJHVRIWKH%XGGKD%OHVVLQJVXSRQWKH3URSKHW ́SS,EQ1DGƯPDO)LKULVW %HLUXW’ƗUDO0DμULIDKQG ,PDP$EnjDO)DWK0XKDPPDGEμ$EGDO.DUƯPDO6KDKUDVWƗQƯZDVDVWXGHQWRIWKHHUXGLWHSRO\PDWKWKHRORJLDQ,PDPDO4XVKD\UƯ+HZDVERUQLQ6KDKULVWDQan area between Nishapur and Khawarizm, and both these areas had large Bud-GKLVWSRSXODWLRQV+HEHFDPHDSRSXODUSUHDFKHULQ%DJKGDGDQG,EQ.KDOLNNƗQsays about him, “He was an accomplished imam, jurist, and theologian, as well as a noted preacher. He is most famous for his book, al-Milal wa al-nihal, which at-tempts to give an account of all of the religions and sects known at that time.”
of the world. They are sometimes erroneously identified with the Mandaean Sabians of Lower Iraq who held some Zoroastrian beliefs regarding light and darkness. Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1255) believed that the Sabians were of two types: polytheistic and unitarian. According to him, they were people who did not have a law taken from a prophet, but he argues that there are also people among Jews, Christians, and Magians who, despite not having a religion SHUVH, know God as one and do not deny God. He said they cling to a shared type of submission (LVOƗPPXVKWDUDN) that entails “worshipping God only, being truthful and just, prohibiting indecent and foul things, and prohibiting oppres-sion as well as those other matters prophets were in agreement on.” Furthermore, he affirms, “[They say,] ‘There is no deity but God’ despite having neither a revealed book nor a prophet.” He argues that the latter group refers to the Sabians included in the Qur’anic category of those who attain salvation. This is strengthened by the fact that the verse states that they believe in God and the Last Day. Furthermore, even if their beliefs are considered erroneous, this does not negate the possibility of their being saved on that day, according WR WKH GRPLQDQW WKHRORJLFDO SRVLWLRQ RI WKH$VKμDUƯ VFKRROV VLQFHidolaters who were not recipients of a revealed message are not held accountable for not knowing—and accepting—divine unity.In addition, hadith literature clearly indicates that some people with false beliefs will be saved in the afterlife. For example, ac-cording to a sound hadith, a man had his sons cremate him, hoping that God would not be able to recreate him and then punish him in the afterlife. The Prophet informs us that God forgave the man, even though he doubted God’s omnipotence, which is considered disbelief (NXIU). 7KH YHUVH LQ WKH 4XU¶ƗQ FDWHJRUL]LQJ WKRVH ZKRwill be saved states, “Surely those who believe, and the Jews, Chris-tians, and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day, has their reward with their Lord and shall neither fear nor grieve” (2:62). 5HJDUGLQJWKLVYHUVH,PDPDO$OnjVƯ G LQKLVDXWKRULWDWLYHcommentary, states: The Sabians are a group whose different schools re-volved around a fanatical adherence to spiritual teachers
$O0DZVnjμDKDOPX\\DVVDUDKYRO 5L\DG6$QG )RUDPRUHH[WHQVLYHH[DPLQDWLRQRIWKLVSUREOHPVHHP\DUWLFOH³:KRDUHWKH’LVEHOLHYHUV” ́6HDVRQV-RXUQDO, vol. 5, no. 1, (San Francisco: Zaytuna Institute,
(UXKƗQL\\ƯQ) and taking intercessors. When they were un-able to draw near through them directly and to take from their essences, some of them resorted to using pagodas.10 So the Sabians of Asia Minor relied upon planets, and the Sabi-ans of India relied upon stars, and some of them abandoned the temples and used images that can neither hear nor see or benefit anyone one iota. The first group consists of worship-pers of planets and the second of idolaters. And each of the two groups [of Sabians] has many types and differs in their EHOLHIV DQG ULWHV ,PDP$Enj +DQƯIDK G DUJXHV WKDWthey do not worship idols, but rather they exalt the stars, as the Kaaba, for example, is exalted [among Muslims].11The Imam acknowledges here that Sabians are of different types and that among them are those in India as well as other places whose belief in the planets is clearly negated in Islam. It is impossible to know with any certainty whether the Buddhists as well as the Hin-dus can be included in this category, and scholars do not seem to have ever claimed this. But given the ambiguous language referring to Sabians and Magians that is used in the surahs al-Baqarah, al-0Ɨ¶LGDKDQGDO+DMM0XVOLPVDUHDGYLVHGWRVD\³*RGNQRZVEHVW ́($OOƗKXμDODP). The Abrahamic faiths’ belief in God and the Last Day is not understood in the same manner in either Buddhism or Hinduism but certainly has parallels in both their teachings, especially in Pure Land Buddhism and philosophical Hinduism, which acknowledg-es one God and recognizes that the images in the temples are only aids to help simple people grasp a particular aspect of the universal, transcendent nature of God. While idolatry is an unpardonable sin LQ,VODPLWLVFOHDUIURPWKHILUVWSURKLELWLRQWKH4XU¶ƗQPHQWLRQV“And do not set up rivals with God, NQRZLQJO\” (2:22), that it is predicated upon wittingly worshiping anything beside God or giv-ing it attributes of divinity. Ignorance, according to the dominant opinion among Muslim scholars, is excused if no clear message—of
10. The word in the original Arabic text is KD\ƗNLO, which can be glossed as a ³WHPSOHRUODUJHDOWHU ́$O,VIDKƗQƯVD\VWKDWLWLV³DQ\ODUJHVWUXFWXUHDWHPSOHWKDWChristians use that contains an image of Mary.” Hence, it is a temple with an image, which is essentially what a pagoda is, and Webster’s dictionary defines pagoda as ³DUHOLJLRXVEXLOGLQJRIWKH)DU(DVW ́ZKLFKLVH[DFWO\ZKDW,PDPDO$OnjVƯLVUHIHU-ring to here. And God knows best.6HH,PDPDO$OnjVƯ5XKDOPDμƗQƯ, (2:62
VXEPLVVLRQWR*RG²KDVEHHQJLYHQWRDSHRSOH,PDPDO*KD]]ƗOƯ(d. 1111) argues that this exception also applies to those who receive a distorted presentation of Islam and reject it.12***In addition to including Buddhists among the Sabians, Imam al-6KDKUDVWƗQƯPDNHVDQRWKHUUHPDUNDEOHDVVHUWLRQLQReligions and Sects about the identity of the Buddha and a Qur’anic character. In a section entitled, “The Buddhists,” he states: [The Buddhists believe] Buddha is a person from this world who is born and does not marry, eat, drink, age, or die. The first Buddha to manifest in the world is known as Shakya-muni, which means “honorable and noble.” Between his ap-pearance and the Hijrah is approximately 5000 years.13 The next category below this is the Boddhisatva, which means “a seeker of the truth.” One achieves this rank through patience DQGJLYLQJDQGE\GHVLULQJZKDWVKRXOGEHGHVLUHGOHDY-LQJDWWDFKPHQWWRWKLVZRUOGDEDQGRQLQJLWVDSSHWLWHVDQGSOHDVXUHVULVLQJDERYHLWVSURKLELWHGWKLQJVKDYLQJPHUF\IRUDOORIFUHDWLRQDYRLGLQJWKHWHQVLQVPXUGHUWKHIWIRU-nication, lying, dissention, foulness, cursing, name-calling, KDUVKQHVVDQGGHQ\LQJWKHVSLULWXDOPDVWHUVRIWKHQH[WOLIHand perfecting the ten virtues: generosity and charity, for-giving those who wrong you, overcoming anger with for-bearance, relinquishing the pleasures of this world, meditat-ing upon the eternal world and letting go of this ephemeral abode, exercising the intellect through study, comportment, and reflection upon the ends of matters, mastery of self-discipline by seeking the exalted, gentleness in word and deed toward everyone, conviviality with one’s fraternity and preferring others to oneself, and complete detachment from creation with total inner disposition toward the Truth,
6HH$Enj+ƗPLGDO*KD]]ƗOƯ0DMPnjμDWUDVƗ¶LODO*KD]]ƗOƯ %HLUXW’ƗUDO.XWXEDOμ,OPL\\DK 7KHDXWKRULVRIIE\DERXWIRXUWKRXVDQG\HDUV:KLOHDO6KDKUDVWƗQƯ¶VDF-count of Buddhism is somewhat flawed, it is remarkable for his time, and whatever errors it contains are no doubt a result of misinformation provided to him from his sources. While there is considerable debate on the exact date of the Buddha’s birth, LWLVJHQHUDOO\JLYHQDURXQG%&(LQ1HSDO+LVGHDWKGDWHZDVDURXQGBCE, which would mean he preceded the Prophet by approximately a thousand years, with about a 50-year margin of error.
extending one’s entirety in rapturous desire of the Truth, in order to arrive at the gardens of Truth…. Among their scholars, they do not differ as to the eternity of the cosmos and their belief in NDUPD, as previously mentioned. They emerged in India due to the special qualities of that land and its topography as well as the fact that among its peoples are those who excel in spiritual exercises and self-mastery. Based upon their description of the Buddha, if they are ac-curate, it would seem that he is none other than al-Khadir, whom Muslims acknowledge, upon him be peace.14This last suggestion that there is a relationship between al-Khadir and Buddha is noteworthy, and the commonalities between the two are worth contemplating. Although al-Khadir is associated with the period of Moses LQWKH4XU¶ƗQDZLGHVSUHDGEHOLHIDPRQJMuslims is that al-Khadir does not die until the end of time. +HQFHDO6KDKUDVWƗQƯZRXOGQRWKDYHEHHQWURXEOHGE\WKLVKLVWRUL-cal discrepancy–between the recorded historical dates of Moses and the Buddha is a distance of approximately 700 years–since he would have most likely held the belief that al-Khadir was a trans-historical character. It is also possible to interpret the figure of al-Khadir as a supra-historical archetype, or a particular mode of spiritual guidance—antinomian and enigmatic, radically transcend-ing human modes of comprehension, and even “normal” modes of prophetic guidance. Thus, rather than simply seeking to establish a historical connection or identification between al-Khadir and the Buddha, one might also see the Buddha as one manifestation of the spiritual archetype articulated by the Qur’anic figure al-Khadir . This point of view is substantiated by the remarkable parallels one sees between the two figures.Al-Khadir is indeed an enigmatic character. According to WKH4XU¶ƗQKHLVJLYHQWZRJLIWVGLUHFWO\IURP*RGPHUF\DQGH[-periential knowledge of reality. He is generally not considered a prophet. He is a teacher who wants no students, and, in the Qur’anic narrative, he attempts to dissuade Moses from attempting to learn what cannot be taught but has to be experienced. This is a very Bud-
0XKDPPDG E μ$EG DO.DUƯP DO6KDKUDVWƗQƯ.LWƗEDOPLODOZDDOQLKDO %HLUXW’ƗU.XWXEDOμ,OPL\\DKQG *LYHQDO6KDKUDVWƗQƯ¶VVWDWXUHDQGstatus as an authoritative imam and his knowledge of Buddhism and Islamic theol-ogy, it is singularly noteworthy that he should suggest the possibility of the Buddha being the Qur’anic sage, al-Khadir .
dhist view. The Buddha is reported to have said, “If one would make oneself as one teaches others to be, one should master self-control, for the self is truly hard to tame.”15 Al-Khadir uses a Zen-like approach, in which the student cannot discern the meaning of his actions but has to endure the teacher’s outward antinomian behavior patiently. He is described by most of the theologians of Islam as someone who was given direct knowledge μLOPODGXQQL\\), which is not revelation, but knowledge “from the divine presence.” It is defined as:A direct knowledge someone obtains from God without means of an angel or a prophet through witnessing, as oc-curred with al-Khadir…. It is said that it is a knowledge of the divine essence and its qualities with a certainty that arises from direct witnessing and experience that occurs in the inner eye of consciousness.166XILH[HJHWHVRIWKH4XU¶ƗQKDYHDUJXHGAl-Khidr represents the inner dimension, esoterism, which transcends form. He appears to men in those moments when their own soul bears witness to an awareness of that dimen-sion. In that rare case when there is a spontaneous realiza-tion of spiritual truth on the part of a IDUG, a “solitary” or someone who is by destiny cut off from revelation or from normal channels of spiritual instruction, it is al-Khidr who is the teacher, as in the saying “when the disciple is ready, the master appears.”177KH6XILVDJHDQGUHFRJQL]HGPDVWHU,EUƗKƯPE$GKDPZKRZDVa ruler of Balkh and abandoned his throne for a life of asceticism in the wilderness after al-Khadir appeared to him twice, said, “In that wilderness I lived for four years. God gave me my eating with-out any toil of mine. Khidr the Green Ancient was my companion during that time—he taught me the Great Name of God.”15.
Thomas Cleary, ‘KDPPDSDGD7KH6D\LQJVRI%XGGKD (New Yrk: Bantam %RRNV 6HH’U$QZDU)XμƗG$EƯ.KX]ƗP0XVWDODKƗWDO6njIL\\DK (Beirut: Makta-EDW/XEQDQ 17. Cyril Glasse, 7KH1HZ(QF\FORSHGLDRI,VODP (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira 3UHVV ³$O.KLGU ́LVDYDULDQWVSHOOLQJRI³DO.KDGLU ́,ELG$O.KDGLU is believed to be alive, and many Muslim saints through-out Islamic history have claimed to have met him and learned from him. There
FFRUGLQJWRDVRXQGKDGLWKUHODWHGE\,PDPDO%XNKƗUƯWKHProphet stated that al-Khadir was named so “because he sat upon white herbage under which green foliage sprouted forth.” This is an astonishing hadith, given that the Buddha is often depicted as sitting or walking upon large white lotus flowers with green foliage under them. The large white lotus flower also matches the Arabic description of IDUZDKED\?Ɨ¶DZKLWH³VKHHSVNLQOLNHSODQW ́JLYHQthe Arabs had few names for flowers, the meaning is left to conjec-ture. It is also interesting that the color green is associated with both al-Khadir and the Buddha. “Al-Khadir” literally means “the Green Man,” while the Buddha’s lucky color is considered green, and he is often portrayed as green in statues.Other remarkable similarities revolve around both lineage and ORFDWLRQ$KDGLWKPHQWLRQHGE\,EQμ$MƯEDKLQKLVFRPPHQWDU\RQWKH4XU¶ƗQVD\VThe Prophet is reported to have said concerning al-Khad-ir, “He was the son of a king who desired that his son inherit his throne, but he refused and fled to a secluded island place where they could not find him.”20This is no different from the story of Gautama Buddha, a prince who fled his palace and sought out a secluded place in which to meditate. ,QDVLPLODUYHLQ,EQμ$VƗNLUDOVRUHODWHVWKDWDO.KDGLU was a king’s son who did not desire power or women, and he mentions that al-Khadir remained celibate throughout his life.21$O$OnjVƯLQKLV4XU¶DQLFFRPPHQWDU\QDUUDWHVWKDW$Enj1XμD\PLQKLV+LO\DK, mentions that al-Khadir was in India, as was the Buddha.,QDGGLWLRQ,EQ.DWKƯU G DOVRUHODWHVWZRWHDFKLQJVRIDOKhadir that are surprisingly Buddhist in their essence. The first LVRQWKHDXWKRULW\RI:DKDEE0XQDEELK G ZKRUHODWHVWKDW
are other scholars who deny this and use as proof the well-known statement of theProphet that “within one hundred years, everyone on earth alive today will be dead.” This hadith indicates, however, the meaning of TDUQ or “a generation,” and does not negate the possibility of someone existing outside a normal lifespan. And God knows best.μ$EGDO5D]]ƗTZKRUHODWHVWKHKDGLWKVDLGWKDW³DOIDUZDWDOED\GƗ¶ which he sat upon was white herbage or its like, … and others said it was a white plant that the Prophet OLNHQHGWRZKLWHVKHHSVNLQ ́6HH,EQ.DWKƯU4DVDVDODQEL\Ɨ¶, %HLUXW7LKƗPDKOLDO1DVKUZDDO0DNWDEƗW 6HH$KPDGμ$MƯEDKDO%DKUDOPDGƯG 6HH,EQ.DWKƯU4DVDVDODQEL\Ɨ¶, 454.
al-Khadir said, “O Moses, people suffer in this world to the de-gree of their mental attachment to it.”22 According to the same book, when al-Khadir departed from the company of Moses , he left him with this advice: “Be beneficial wherever you go, and never FDXVHDQ\KDUPEHMR\IXODQGUDGLDQWDQGGRQRWEHFRPHDQJU\OHDYH GLVSXWDWLRQ QHYHU JR DQ\ZKHUH ZLWKRXW SXUSRVH DQG QHYHUlaugh without amazement.”23In the Qur’anic narrative, when al-Khadir explains to Mosesthe reasons why he committed the apparently inexplicable acts about which Moses questions him, al-Khadir gives as his reason, “It ZDVDOOPHUF\IURP*RGWKDWFRPSHOOHGPH,ZDVQRWDFWLQJIURPP\RZQFRQFHUQV ́ 7KLVH[HPSOLILHVWKH$UDKDW¶VSXUSRVHLQOLIHWhile discrepancy about the historical time period between that of Mo-ses DQGRIWKH%XGGKDUHPDLQVWKHIDFWWKDW,PDPDO6KDKUDVWƗQƯcould see the parallels between the teachings of the Buddha and of al-Khadir stands as a powerful affirmation from a master Islamic theo-logian that, indeed, much of what we find in Buddhism is compatible with a Qur’anic worldview. One striking example is the Buddha’s state-PHQW³2QHZKRNQRZVVHOILVGHDUZLOONHHSLWZHOOJXDUGHGWKHZLVHone keeps a vigil a third of the night.”246LPLODUO\WKH4XU¶ƗQVWDWHV“The Lord knows that you [Muhammad] keep vigil in the night, nigh two-thirds, or half the night, or a third” (73:20).***The history of Islam, not unlike the history of other religions, has its enlightened and its dark periods. In Islam’s shared history with Bud-dhism, we find spans of time when Buddhists lived in relative peace and security under Muslim rule, and in other times, we find Muslims oppressing Buddhists, forcing them to convert or sometimes even massacring them. In some cases, we also find evidence of the Bud-dhist oppression of Muslims.So it is worth looking back, not only at how well—or badly—Muslims and Buddhists have co-existed, but also at what the reli-gion of Islam says about the Buddhists and their place in a Muslim dominated society.
22. This so accurately describes the basis of all Buddhist teaching that I will convey it in Arabic for those who wish to see that the translation is accurate. <Ɨ0njVƗLQQDDOQƗVDPXμDGKDEnjQDIƯDOGXQ\ƗμDOƗTDGULKXPnjPLKLPELKƗ. See Ibn .DWKƯU4DVDVDODQEL\Ɨ¶, 352.23. Ibid.24. Cleary, 54.
Buddhism was widespread in Central Asia, Iran, Tibet, the In-dian subcontinent, and China long before the Muslims arrived and interacted with them in these places. As Islam spread into South-east Asia, Muslims encountered Buddhists in Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Siam and also the Malay archipelago. Buddhism thrived during the early period of the Muslim conquests, and historical ac-counts describe in great detail the temples and Buddhist schools in places such as Balkh and Mazaar-e-Sharif in today’s northern Af-ghanistan. Moreover, sound records note the travels of the Chinese Buddhist monk and scholar, Hsuan Tsang, visiting Balkh around the year 630 and finding about one hundred Theravedic Buddhist monasteries there. The keepers of one of the most important shrines in Buddhist history were Persian–speaking Afghans, known as the Barmakids, who were brilliant Buddhist administrators. After their conversion to Islam, they were brought to Baghdad during the rule of the Abbasid dynasty, where they revolutionized Muslim govern-ment and introduced important diplomatic innovations that changed the face of Islam.In the eighth century, when Qutaybah b. Muslim led the Um-ayyad Caliphate army into Central Asia, he found many people he described as idol worshippers, most of whom were probably Bud-dhists, but there were also Manichaeans and Nestorian Christians in these lands. According to Arab historians, Qutaybah was warned by the native people that anyone who harmed the statues would perish. However, he began to wipe them out, and upon seeing that he did not suffer or perish as a result, many of the superstitious embraced Islam. Dr. Alexander Berzin, historian and scholar of Buddhism, writes about the early expansion of Islam into central Asia: [The Ummayyad governors] allowed followers of non-Mus-lim religions in the lands they conquered to keep their faiths if they submitted peacefully and paid a poll tax…. Although some Buddhists in Bactria and even an abbot of Nava Vihara converted to Islam, most Buddhists in the region accepted this dhimmi status as loyal non-Muslim protected subjects within the Islamic states. Nava Vihara remained open and functioning. The Han Chinese pilgrim Yijing (I-Ching) vis-LWHG1DYD9LKDUDLQWKHVDQGUHSRUWHGLWIORXULVKLQJDVDSarvastivada center of study. An Umayyad Arab author, al-Kermani, wrote a detailed account of Nava Vihara at the beginning of the eighth cen-tury, preserved in the tenth century work %RRN RI /DQGV(Arabic: .LWDEDO%XOGDQ) by al-Hamadhani. He described it in terms readily understandable to Muslims by drawing the analogy with the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest site of Islam. He explained that the main temple had a stone cube in the center, draped with cloth, and that devotees circum-ambulated it and made prostration, as is the case with the Kaaba. The stone cube referred to the platform on which a stupa stood, as was the custom in Bactrian temples. The cloth that draped it was in accordance with the Iranian cus-tom for showing veneration, applied equally to Buddha statues as well as to stupas. Al-Kermani’s description indi-cates an open and respectful attitude by the Umayyad Arabs in trying to understand the non-Muslim religions, such as Buddhism, that they encountered in their newly conquered territories.25Nonetheless, opposition to Islam in these lands was violent, and non-Muslims were not allowed to carry weapons. Afghans maintain that Islam spread among them peacefully, but the historical record shows that Buddhism remained strong even after the Arab invasion up until the conversion of the king of Kabul during the reign of al-0D¶PnjQ G $VWDWXHRIWKH%XGGKDZDVVHQWWRDO0D¶PnjQDVa tribute, and he had it shipped to Mecca where it remained on dis-play for a few years, reminding all that the king of the Afghans had embraced Islam. This worked well as a bit of Abbasid propaganda in their efforts to spread Islam. During the uprising of Imam al-Husayn in the Arabian penin-sula, the Buddhists used the Ummayad neglect of Afghanistan as an opportunity to reclaim their sovereignty. In 705, the Tibetans allied with the Turki Shahis and attempted to drive the Ummayad IRUFHVIURP%DFWULD,QWKH%XGGKLVWSULQFH1D]DNWDU.KDQsucceeded in removing the Ummayayd forces and “established a fanatic Buddhist rule in Bactria. He even beheaded the former abbot of Nava Vihara who had converted to Islam.”26Seven years later, the Arabs regained what was lost. The Mus-
25. Alexander Berzin, +LVWRULFDO6NHWFKRI%XGGKLVPDQG,VODPLQ$IJKDQLVWDQ, 2006, (www.berzinarchives.com.), 5.26. Ibid.
lim general, Qutaybah, recaptured Bactria from the Turki Shahis and their Tibetan allies. Qutaybah imposed harsh punishment on the monastery, which led to many Buddhist monks fleeing to Khotan and Kashmir, thus strengthening Buddhism in these areas. The tem-ple was restored, and the general policy towards the Buddhists was toleration, unless they were involved in any subversive opposition to Muslim rule.27The Tibetans, who had previously allied with the Turki Shahis, now allied with the Ummayyads and, in 717, sent an ambassador to WKH8PPD\\DGFRXUWRIμ8PDUEμ$EGDO$]Ư]ZKRLQWXUQVHQWD0XVOLPVFKRODUDO+DQDIƯWR7LEHWWRSUHDFK,VODPWRWKH7LEHWDQVHe seems to have been unsuccessful. Buddhism remained strong in Central Asia for over a hundred years of Muslim rule, which in-dicates a general toleration of the religion. But by the mid-ninth century, Islam began taking hold among the Central Asians, despite widespread practice of Buddhism. Thomas W. Arnold, a British ori-entalist and professor of Islamic Studies, writes:[The king of Kabul’s] successors, however, seem to have UHODSVHG WR %XGGKLVP IRU ZKHQ IRXQGHURIWKH6DIIƗULGG\QDVW\H[WHQGHGKLVFRQTXHVWVDVIDUDV.ƗEXOLQKHIRXQGWKHUXOHURIWKHODQGWREHDQ³LGRODWHU ́DQG.ƗEXOQRZEHFDPHUHDOO\0XKDPPDGDQIRUthe first time, the Afghans probably being quite willing to take service in the army of so redoubtable a conqueror as RI 6DEDNWLJƯQ DQG 0DKPnjG RI *KD]QD WKDW ,VODP EHFDPHestablished throughout Afghanistan.7KHSRO\PDWKVFKRODUDO%D\UnjQƯDFFODLPHGDVWKHIRXQGHURIFRP-parative religious studies, noted the decline and gradual disappear-ance of Buddhism in Afghanistan after the tenth century. He de-scribed what was left of Buddhism in Afghanistan during his time and engaged both Hindus and Buddhists during his sojourn in India when he accompanied the invading Muslim army of Mahmoud al-Ghazni. Evidence suggests that Muslim architecture that was used to build madrasas was influenced by the architecture of Buddhist
27. Ibid., 4.,ELG7KRPDV:$UQROG7KH3UHDFKLQJRI,VODP (New Delhi: Adam Publishers & Distributors, 2002), 217.
monasteries.30 It is clear that up until the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century, Buddhism was still widespread in Eastern Mus-lim lands, and Buddhists could be found in Iran and Central Asia. After the Mongolian invasion of these lands, Muslims suffered greatly and many of their subjects found an opportunity to exact revenge for previous Muslim transgressions. The level of animos-ity felt against the Muslims by some of their previous subjects is LOOXVWUDWHGLQWKHIROORZLQJLQFLGHQWIURPWKHUHLJQRI.X\njN.KDQ WKHJUDQGVRQRI*HQJKLV.KDQDVUHFRXQWHGE\WKH0XVOLPKLVWRULDQDO-nj]MƗQƯ7UXVWZRUWK\ SHUVRQV KDYH UHODWHG WKDW .X\njN ZDV FRQ-stantly being incited by the Buddhist priests to acts of op-pression towards the [Muslims] and the persecution of the IDLWKIXO7KHUHZDVDQ,PƗPLQWKDWFRXQWU\RQHRIWKHPHQRIOHDUQLQJDPRQJWKH0XVOLPV«QDPHG1njUDO’ƯQDO.KDZƗUL]PƯ$QXPEHURI&KULVWLDQOD\PHQDQGSULHVWVDQGa band of idol-worshipping Buddhist priests made a request WR.X\njNDVNLQJKLPWRVXPPRQWKDW,PƗPRIWKH>0XV-lims] that they might hold a controversy with him and get him to prove the superiority of the faith of Muhammad and his prophetic mission—otherwise, he should be put to death. 7KH.KƗQDJUHHGWKH,PƗPZDVVHQWIRUDQGDGLVFXVVLRQensued upon the claim of Muhammad to be a prophet and the manner of his life as compared with that of other proph-ets. At length, as the arguments of those accursed ones were weak and devoid of the force of truth, they withdrew their hand from contradiction and drew the mark of oppression DQGRXWUDJHRQWKHSDJHVRIWKHEXVLQHVVDQGDVNHG.X\njN.KƗQWRWHOOWKH,PƗPWRSHUIRUPWZRJHQXIOH[LRQVLQSUD\HUaccording to the rites and ordinances of the [Muslim] law, in order that his unbecoming movements in the performance of this act of worship might become manifest to them and to WKH.KƗQ«:KHQWKHJRGO\,PƗPDQGWKHRWKHU>0XVOLP@who was with him had placed their foreheads on the ground LQWKHDFWRISURVWUDWLRQVRPHLQILGHOVZKRP.X\njNKDGsummoned, greatly annoyed them and knocked their heads with force upon the ground, and committed other abomina-EOHDFWVDJDLQVWWKHP%XWWKDWJRGO\,PƗPHQGXUHGDOOWKLV
30. Glasse, 302.
oppression and annoyance and performed all the required forms and ceremonies of the prayer and in no way curtailed it. When he had repeated the salutation, he lifted up his face towards heaven and observed the form of “invoke your Lord with humility and in secret,” and having asked permission to depart, he returned unto his house.31It is not surprising that Buddhists would have felt such hostility to-ward people that had so little regard for their faith and deemed them simply as “idolaters,” no different than those under whom Muslims had suffered in Mecca during the early years of Islam. Nevertheless, not all Buddhists during this period were antago-nistic to Islam, and some had a real interest in the tenets of the faith. Among the most prominent converts to Islam from Buddhism was *KƗ]DQ.KDQWKHVHYHQWKDQGJUHDWHVW,ONKƗQLGUXOHURIWKH0RQ-gol Empire. He was born a Christian, raised a Buddhist as a young boy, and went on to erect several Buddhist temples in Khorasan. He ruled in Persia and brought with him into that country several Bud-dhist priests who were kept in his court and with whom he enjoyed conversing. At the height of his power, after a thorough study of Islam, he seems to have had a genuine conversion experience. His FKURQLFOHUWKHQRWHG0XVOLPKLVWRULDQ5DVKƯGDO’ƯQGHIHQGHGWKHconversion as sincere and argued, “What interested motive could have led so powerful a sovereign to change his faith: much less, a SULQFHZKRVHSDJDQDQFHVWRUVKDGFRQTXHUHGWKHZRUOG” ́32 Again, however, we find the Buddhists referred to as pagans.***There is no denying that we have this recurrent theme, both in the past and in the present, of Muslims labeling Buddhists as pagans, idolaters, or polytheists. This is somewhat compounded by the real-ity of the absolute disdain Muslims have for any forms of idolatry, even iconography. It is beyond the scope of this essay to adequately address the issue of whether Buddhism is an idolatrous form of wor-ship. Suffice it to state that any such assertion would be a gross over-simplification, given the vast range of spiritual expression found un-der the umbrella of Buddhism. There are today Christian Buddhists, Jewish Buddhists, and Humanistic Buddhists, not to mention the variations found in history. The Bon influenced expressions of Cen-
31. Arnold, 225-226.32. Ibid., 233.
tral Asia, for instance, are quite different from the Cha’n Buddhism of China or its Japanese expression in Zen. And Zen Buddhism cer-tainly cannot be termed idolatrous, even by Islam’s severe standards of idolatry. Complicating matters for Muslim-Buddhist relations is the real-ity that many Muslims tend to conflate veneration with worship.33‘HVSLWH$Enj+DQƯIDK¶VDFNQRZOHGJHPHQWWKDW6DELDQVGLGQRWZRU-ship the stars but merely venerated them in the manner of Mus-lims venerating the Kaaba, Buddhist ritual and the widespread use of Buddha’s image in their devotional practices continues to fuel the narrative of idol-worship, especially among those Muslims who bring a fundamentalist approach to their faith.Furthermore, we must also acknowledge that most forms of Buddhism are described by Buddhists themselves as either agnostic or atheistic, which eliminates the problem of idolatry, but creates just as severe a problem for Muslims because it also eliminates the idea of God altogether. In this regard we should take particular note of one of the central contentions of Dr. Shah-Kazemi in this book: that those Buddhists who describe themselves as atheist are in fact going beyond anything the Buddha stated. For, as Shah-Kazemi notes, on p. 31 of this book: “Nobody can deny that the Buddha’s doctrine is non-theistic: there is no Personal divinity playing the role of Creator, 5HYHDOHU-XGJHLQ%XGGKLVP%XWWRDVVHUWWKDWWKH%XGGKD¶VGRF-trine is ‘atheistic’ would be to attribute to him an explicit denial and negation of the Absolute—which one does not find anywhere in his teachings.” In other words, Buddhists do have a concept of ultimate reality, which although not Abrahamic or personal, does correspond to God in a transpersonal sense. In the same vein, not unlike Islam, certain strains of Buddhism include belief in an afterlife, a form of heaven and hell, and places of joy and suffering. These are themes raised and discussed in this book in a manner which we hope will lead to fruitful dialogue between Muslims and Buddhists, rendering clearer both where we differ and where our “common ground” lies. The fact that Muslims historically relegated Buddhism to idola-try is more a reflection of an ignorance of the depth of Buddhist teaching and less a reflection of an Islamic understanding of Bud-dhism. In many ways, Islam is a bridge between Asian truths found in the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Vedantic
33. See in this connection the arguments of Shah-Kazemi upholding the non-LGRODWURXVQDWXUHRI%XGGKLVWZRUVKLSSS
Hinduism and the truths found in the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism and Christianity. Moreover, as has been clearly stated by Professor Kamali in his Foreword, and amplified by Dr. Shah-Kazemi, there were periods when Buddhists lived in safety under Muslim rule, paying a tribute (ML]\DK)34 and were considered people of protected status (dhimmah), LQDFFRUGDQFHZLWKWKHSRVLWLRQRI,PDP0ƗOLN G DQGPDQ\+DQDIƯ VFKRODUV ZKR SHUPLW SURWHFWHG VWDWXV IRU QRQ$EUDKDPLFUHOLJLRQVHYHQRQHVZKLFKLQYROYHLGRODWU\’U6ƗGLTDO*KLU\ƗQƯexplains this position: -L]\DK is taken from the Arab idolaters and whoever prac-tices a religion other than Islam among Christians, Jews, Magians, Communists, Hindus, and any others among worshipers of idols or fire given that the Prophet him-self commanded those going out in military expeditions to oppose enemies of Islam to first call them to Islam and “should they refuse then invite them to pay tribute,” and he did not distinguish between a polytheist or the People of the Book, … and in the sound hadith recorded in Muslim on WKH DXWKRULW\ RI μ$EG DO5DKPƗQ E μ$ZI, the Prophet took ML]\DK from the Magians of Hajar and Oman. Fur-WKHUPRUHRQWKHDXWKRULW\RIDO=XKUƯ0ƗOLNVWDWHVWKDWWKHProphet took ML]\DK from the Magians of Bahrain, and ‘Umar accepted it from the Persians [and among them were Buddhists as well as the majority who were Zoroas-WULDQV@DQGμ8WKPƗQ accepted it from the Persians, and the Prophet stated, “Treat them as you would the People of the Book.”35
34. Though the word “tribute” is often viewed as unfavorable today, Webster’s dictionary defines it as “a payment by one ruler or nation to another in acknowledg-ment of submission or as the price of protection.” The ML]\DK is a formal tax paid by individuals living in a community under Muslim rule. Monastic orders are exempt from the tax, as are retired, disabled, and indigent people. 6HH’U6ƗGLTDO*KLU\ƗQƯDO0XGDZZDQDKDOMDGƯGDK (Beirut: Mu’assasaat DO5D\\ƗQ YRO+HLQFOXGHVKXPDQLVWVDQGFRPPXQLVWVZKLFKLVFRQVLVWHQWZLWK0ƗOLN¶VSRVLWLRQEXWXQIRUWXQDWHO\LVQRWNQRZQE\PDQ\0XVOLPVwho mistakenly believe that this option was traditionally available only to Jews and Christians. However, this would not explain the status of Hindus in India under Muslim rule for the past several hundred years, despite unfortunate and un-Islamic periods of persecution
Once people have entered into a protected status, irrespective of their religion, they are allowed to travel freely in the lands of Mus-OLPVWKHUHLVRQO\RQHVDFUHGDUHDLQWKH$UDELDQ3HQLQVXODWKDWLVexempted, as the Prophet reserved it only for Muslims and asked his followers to relocate from that area those people who were prac-ticing other religions, which included Jews, Christians, and polythe-ists. The mere fact that he mentioned the polytheists in this hadith is a clear indication that non-Muslims are not to be forced into conver-sion or killed if they refused conversion. A small minority of Muslim scholars, however, takes an extreme position, citing the Qur’anic verse which states that Muslims should seek out and kill those poly-theists who violated their treaty with the Muslims by treacherously NLOOLQJXQDUPHG0XVOLPV that states, “But should they appeal to you for security, then grant them such in order for them to hear the word of God. And thereafter, escort them to a place where they can be secure. That is because they DUHSHRSOHZLWKRXWNQRZOHGJH ́ Even though Buddhists and Hindus were oppressed at times under Muslims, more often than not they were protected, as were their places of worship. Some also achieved positions of high rank in Muslim society. These were the times when Muslims were prac-ticing the best of their tradition. The Prophet Muhammad said, “Whoever oppresses a non-Muslim who has a covenant with Mus-lims, or who even belittles him or forces him to do something he is unable to do, or who takes from him anything that he is not satisfied in giving, I will argue against the Muslim on the Day of Judgment [on behalf of the non-Muslim.]”36The age of tribute and protected status (dhimmah) of others un-der Muslim rule is long gone and only remains as a historical curios-ity, notwithstanding its valid legal status as part of the shariah. The Prophet predicted that the first aspect of the faith to be removed from the world would be governance. And once removed, he stated that it would remain so until the return of Jesus , who would per-sonally remove the tribute payment from the shariah. What matters today is that we build upon the positive precedents established by our tradition of tolerant jurisprudence, and encourage Muslims to con-sider Buddhists as being akin to “People of the Book.” This is one of the main aims of the present initiative to seek &RPPRQ*URXQGbetween Islam and Buddhism. There is an Islamic legal precedent
for this in the hadith of the Prophet in which we are told to treat the Magians as if they were People of the Book, with the exception of marrying their women and eating their meat. ***Today, we live together in an increasingly interdependent world. The challenges facing us as a species behoove us to focus on our com-monalities and our shared values. We are confronted with global crises of all types: environmental, economic, social, religious, and military, not to mention the tremendous natural disasters that are afflicting us on an increasingly frequent basis. Never before has hu-man cooperation been needed so desperately, and never before has it been so imperative that we set aside our differences. Buddhism and Islam share profound precepts of charity, patience, forbearance, and a recognition that everything in the world is imbued with the sacred. We may speak of the sacred in different ways, using different words, but its essence is one. Buddhism teaches kindness, and Islam’s es-sence is mercy, which is another word for kindness.We often forget that kindness is engendered by a shared sense of “kind.” “He is my kind of man,” we say. When commonalities are accentuated and kindness is highlighted, we tend to treat oth-ers as our own kind, as related, as our “kin,” a word that shares the same root with J\Q, which means “womb” and is called UDKLP in Arabic, which relates to the word UDKPDK, meaning “mercy.” The 4XU¶ƗQDIILUPVDOORIKXPDQLW\DVEHLQJRIRQHIDPLO\Banu Adam, humankind. When our common humanity and our kindred nature are brought to the forefront, kindness becomes not only possible but QDWXUDO. Our earliest ancestors had valid reasons to fear strangers, but they also developed many traditions of honoring the familiar guest as well as the stranger. In the modern world, there is much to cause fear as well, but we must foster empathy, and cultivate and en-hance our own ways of honoring the familiar guest and the stranger. While much evidence abounds to cause trepidation about succeed-ing at that task, I would argue that far more exists to inspire hope. For the first time in human history, we have media at our fin-gertips enabling us to leap over vast stretches of land and sea in-stantaneously and communicate with people across the globe. From the comfort of our living rooms, we have the ability to see and un-derstand how people of a different culture, ethnicity, or religion live their lives, and we are able to marvel at the richness and biodiversity RIRXUSODQHW:HGHOLJKWLQWKHGLYHUVLW\ZHILQGLQQDWXUHZHDUHDZHGE\WKHP\ULDGYDULHWLHVRIIORUDDQGIDXQDDQGZHH[SUHVVRXUlove with bouquets of varied and colorful flowers. Even the most curious strangers from distant lands are increasingly part of our col-lective consciousness.Yet fear too often wells up when we are confronted with people who do not seem like us. We fall back on xenophobia, which literal-ly means “a fear of the other.” Oddly, it is often religion that causes divisiveness and dread when it ought to unite believers and incul-FDWHLQWKHPWKH*ROGHQ5XOHZKLFKLVDXQLYHUVDOSULQFLSOH²WKXVat once sacred and secular–articulated by the Abrahamic prophets as well as the Asian sages from the Buddha to Confucius. Far too often, a distorted understanding of our faith traditions causes us to demonize the other as infidel or idolater, tyrant or terrorist, and as somehow less than human. While Buddhism seems to have less of this tendency than other faiths, it is not—and historically has not been—immune to these problems. Islam, which historically was more often than not a fount of tolerance in a xenophobic world, is now seen by some as being infected with intolerance. Sadly, some Buddhists are among those who have suffered at the hands of small numbers of misguided Muslims who attacked them and the temples of those they deemed to be “not of our kind.” Yet, if we look around the world today, there is much that we find heartening. Muslims live as minorities in Buddhist countries, such as Thailand and Tibet, and share neighborhoods in California with Buddhists. The Prophet said, “Gentleness is never in a thing except that it embellishes it and is never removed from something except that it blemishes it.”37 Nothing in the Prophet’s teaching al-lows mistreatment of others based upon their beliefs. Islam itself began under intense religious persecution, and the Prophet was deeply sensitive to this fact and left teachings to ensure that Mus-lims did not fall victim to the very behaviors that victimized them. While Buddhists also have their own history of violence, today they are some of the gentlest and most peaceful people on earth.
6DKƯK0XVOLP)RUDVWXG\LQ-DSDQHVH%XGGKLVWXVHRIYLROHQFHVHH0LNDHO6$GROSKVRQ¶V7KH 7HHWK DQG &ODZV RI WKH %XGGKD 0RQDVWLF UULRUV DQG 6RKHL LQ -DSDQHVH+LVWRU\. For an extraordinary study on religious violence during the last two thou-sand years, see Naveed S. Sheikh’s %RG\&RXQW$4XDQWLWDWLYH5HYLHZRI3ROLWLFDO9LROHQFH$FURVV:RUOG&LYLOL]DWLRQV
Their leaders often preach kindness and compassion throughout the world, and the Dalai Lama has publicly defended Muslims and their faith—at the Vatican and in other prominent venues—despite having been mistreated in his youth by some ignorant Tibetan Muslims. It is time we recognize that many of the gravest and most vex-ing conflicts today are fueled by religious rhetoric that cloaks deep-er causes, mostly greed, covetousness, and aggression, which are rooted in selfish and territorial interests. But it is true religion that FDQWUHDWDQGUHPHG\WKHVHYHU\KXPDQDLOPHQWV5HOLJLRQJHWVFRQ-scripted into such degrading battles by demagogues, and that in turn tragically alienates an increasingly large number of considerate and concerned people who begin to see religion as part of the problem. Until we address the very real calamities confronting our collec-tive humanity with all the tools available to us—especially religion and a genuine concern for humanity and the myriad species that we share this marvelous world with—we are failing our faiths. It is undeniable that we come from different faiths and families, but we must also recognize that we are quintessentially of the larger human family.It is our common humanity that binds us to one another and calls us to recognize all people as our kind. “We have dignified all RIKXPDQNLQG ́VWDWHVWKH4XU¶ƗQ ZKLOH%XGGKLVPUHPLQGVus that human suffering is caused by craving and selfish desire that must be countered by recognizing the impermanence of life and by inculcating compassion toward all sentient beings for the brief time we are here. Until we acknowledge our human nature, both the bes-tial and celestial sides, we are doomed to fail. My own teacher, Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, once explained to me: “The dignity of humanity precedes the dignity of faith and is subordinate to it.” In other words, a human is inviolable by virtue of his or her humanity, even before the inviolability of shared faith. The Prophet Muhammad stated, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his fellow man what he loves for himself.” The great imams of Islam have argued that this mutual love and respect extends even to those who reject Islam, but can only be achieved by oppos-ing one’s selfish desires. Similarly, the Bodhisattva is devoted to the cause of releasing all of humanity from the chains of false desire.Islam and Buddhism share so many virtuous qualities and con-cerns for humankind that when Muslims or Buddhists are unkind to
one another, it is no less than a failure of our leaders and teachers to help us understand our own traditions and our shared history. Increas-ing globalization demands that we affirm and accentuate the common bonds of universal kinship. If our faiths cannot facilitate this most im-portant of tasks, then the professors, spiritual leaders, and claimants of such traditions have betrayed them by failing to live up to the sublime standards set by their respective prophets and founders. ***In the best of times, Muslims have lived peacefully in many places with their Buddhist brethren. Buddhists lived under Muslim gover-nance as protected people, and there is ample historical evidence to substantiate this. Their persons, properties, and temples were secure based upon the Qur’anic injunction, “God does not forbid you from EHLQJJRRGWRWKRVHZKRKDYHQRWIRXJKW\RX ́ 7KH4XU¶DQLFworldview is a pluralistic one that acknowledges the right of peoples to express their devotion in accordance with the dictates of their religion. It is clear that diversity is an expression of the divine itself, DVWKH4XU¶ƗQVWDWHV³+DG*RGZDQWHG+HZRXOGKDYHPDGH\RXall one people, but the intent is to test you, so vie with another in SHUIRUPLQJJRRGZRUNV ́ The Prophet Muhammad said about protected religious mi-norities living under Muslim rule, “Whoever hurts a non-Muslim citizen hurts me, and whoever hurts me has vexed God.”40 The great +DQDIƯMXULVW,EQμƖELGƯQ G DUJXHGWKDWVLQFH0XVOLPVDUHresponsible for protecting the life and property of non-Muslims, including the Buddhists, and since the persecution of the weak at the hands of the strong is among the greatest crimes in Islam, the persecution of non-Muslims, including the Buddhists, in an Islamic state is considered a greater crime than the persecution of Muslims by non-Muslims.41Despite the Islamic jurists’ recognition of Buddhism as being classified among the protected religions, some Muslims have diffi-culty accepting Buddhists and those of other Asian traditions as pos-VLEO\EHLQJFRQVLGHUHGDPRQJWKH6DELDQVPHQWLRQHGLQWKH4XU¶ƗQand other Muslims simply consider the Buddhists idolatrous, given
,PDPDO%D\KDTƯDO6XQQDQDONXEUƗYRO1DUUDWHGE\DO.KDWƯEwith an authentic chain.μ$EGDU5DKPƗQ,’RL6KDUƯμDK,VODPLF/DZ, revised and expanded by μ$EGDVVDPDG&ODUNH 8.7DKD3XEOLVKHUV/WG
their veneration of the images of the Buddha and its association with idolatry. For all such Muslims today, I would like to narrate a sto-ry from the Islamic tradition, once related by the sages of Islam to WHDFKKRZWRWUHDWRWKHUVQRPDWWHUZKDWWKHLUEHOLHIVDUH,PDP6ƯGƯDO0XNKWƗUDO.XQWƯDO6KLQJLWWƯUHODWHVLQKLVERRN)DWKDO:DGnjGthe following:It is related that an idolater once sought refuge with Abraham and asked for nourishment. Upon seeing an idolater, Abraham refused him and sent him off. Angel Gabriel appeared and said to Abraham , “I bring the greeting of peace from your Lord, who asks you, ‘Why did \RXWXUQDZD\0\VHUYDQW”¶ ́Abraham replies, “Because he was an idolater.” ³*RGDVNV\RXμ’LG\RXFUHDWHKLPRUGLG,”¶ ́Abraham replies, “Of course, You created him.” ³*RGDVNV\RXμ:DVKLVGLVEHOLHILQ0HRULQ\RX”¶ ́Abraham responds, “His disbelief was in You.” “God asks you, ‘Were you providing for him all these \HDUVRUZDV,” ́Abraham replies, “Indeed, You are my provider as well as his.” “God asks, ‘Did He create that disbelief in his heart, or GLG\RXFUHDWHLWDQGQXUWXUHLWLQKLP”¶ ́Abraham says, “No, You did.” “God asks you whether his disbelief harmed him or \RX” ́Abraham replies, “No, it harmed him.” “God says, ‘If that is the case, then why did you deprive 0\VHUYDQWDQG\RXUEURWKHU”)RUKHLVLQRQHRIWZRSRV-sible conditions: fuel for the fire and an object of My wrath, or I can forgive him and make him among my beloveds and grant him peace in the abode of My mercy.’” At this point, Abraham went out in search of the man and found he was now fearful of him. He showed the man kindness and cajoled him into returning to his tent to feed him. The man said, “Something happened, as you are act-ing so differently towards me. Initially you refused me, and now you are showing me kindness, as if you want some-thing from me.” Abraham said to him, “My Lord reproached me for the way I treated you.” To this the man said, “What a blessed Lord you have that He should reproach His beloved due to his bad behavior toward His enemy.” He then submitted to the God of Abra-ham and worshipped with him until he died.42This story—not necessarily its ending—illustrates the essential aim of both the $&RPPRQ:RUG initiative and the present Com-PRQ*URXQG project: inviting into our tent the stranger who may not look, worship, or be like us in many ways, EHFDXVH he or she is a creation of God, here for a purpose, and someone to be honored as a fellow guest of God. We are committed to setting an example and embodying in our attitudes, declarations, and behaviors the very change we wish to see manifest in the world. The challenge before us is to understand our teachings better—from within and without—so we can engender a true celebration of humankind’s diversity. For indeed, too many of us seem to have just enough faith to foment hatred, oppression, and fear among people, but not nearly enough to nurture kindness, compassion, and mercy.
This will blow your mind! EXACT same quotes from Jesus, Buddha, Laozi (Taoism & Buddhism)
This will blow your mind! EXACT same quotes from Jesus, Buddha, Laozi (Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity)
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The Many Similarities Between Jesus and Buddha
The Second Coming of Buddha?
How are the life stories of Buddha and Jesus similar?
are many similarities between the mythical elements of Jesus and
Buddha. Here are just a few of the most striking similarities.
- Conceived in a miraculous manner
- Similar names of mother (Maya for Buddha, Mary for Jesus)
- Was a bit of a child prodigy
- Underwent a long period of fasting while traveling alone
- Tempted by, but overcame, the devil
- Began an itinerant ministry around the age of 30
- Had disciples who traveled with him.
- Performed miracles, such as curing blindness and walking on water
- Renounced worldly riches and required his disciples to do so also
- Rebelled against the religious elite (Brahmans for Buddha and Pharisees for Jesus)
- Dispatched disciples, shortly before his death, to spread his message
The Bible and The Dhamma Wheel
The teachings of Jesus are in the Bible. The Dhamma wheel symbolizes the eightfold path of Buddha. | Source
How are the teachings of Buddha and Jesus similar?
overall themes of the teachings of Buddha and Jesus are similar. Buddha
organized his teachings into the Eightfold Path, while the teachings of
Jesus are given sporadically in different books of The Holy Bible.
To learn more about the Eightfold Path, see: The Buddhist Eightfold Path for Modern Times
They both advocate what has come to be called “The Golden Rule”—treat
others as you would wish to be treated. They both urge followers to
live a life of peace and love, returning love for hate and anger. They
both promote what Buddha called “right action”—do not kill, steal,
slander, etc. they both stress the importance of helping others.
Here are a few examples
The Golden Rule
“Consider others as yourself.” (Dhammapada 10:1)
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)
Let your thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world.” (Sutta Nipata 149-150)
“This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
Love your enemies
anger by love, overcome evil by good. Overcome the miser by giving,
overcome the liar by truth. (Dhammapada 1.5 &17.3)
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6.27-30)
Turn the other cheek
anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a
knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words.”
(Majjhima Nikaya 21:6)
“If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” (Luke 6:29
you do not tend to one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever
would tend me, he should tend the sick.” (Vinaya, Mahavagga 8:26.3)
“Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45)
Do not judge others
fault of others is easily perceived, but that of oneself is difficult
to perceive; a man winnows his neighbour’s faults like chaff, but his
own fault he hides.” (Dhammapada 252.)
not, that you be not judged… And why do you look at the speck in your
brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew
“Let us live most happily, possessing nothing.” (Dhammapada 15:4)
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)
Do not kill
the taking of life, the ascetic Gautama dwells refraining from taking
life, without stick or sword.” Digha Nikaya 1:1.8)
“Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)
Spread the word
the dharma which is lovely at the beginning, lovely in the middle,
lovely at the end. Explain with the spirit and the letter in the fashion
of Brahma. In this way you will be completely fulfilled and wholly
pure.” (Vinaya Mahavagga 1:11.1)
therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them
to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
More Parallel Sayings
Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, and Lao Tzu: The Parallel Sayings
quotes above contain just a few of the parallel sayings between Jesus
and Buddha. There are many others and also parallels with other Eastern
teachers. You’ll come away with a better understanding of religious
in 01) Classical Magahi Magadhi,
02) Classical Chandaso language,
04) Classical Hela Basa (Hela Language),
05) Classical Pali,
06) Classical Devanagari,Classical Hindi-Devanagari- शास्त्रीय हिंदी,
07) Classical Cyrillic
08) Classical Afrikaans– Klassieke Afrikaans
09) Classical Albanian-Shqiptare klasike,
10) Classical Amharic-አንጋፋዊ አማርኛ,
11) Classical Arabic-اللغة العربية الفصحى
12) Classical Armenian-դասական հայերեն,
13) Classical Azerbaijani- Klassik Azərbaycan,
14) Classical Basque- Euskal klasikoa,
15) Classical Belarusian-Класічная беларуская,
16) Classical Bengali-ক্লাসিক্যাল বাংলা,
17) Classical Bosnian-Klasični bosanski,
18) Classical Bulgaria- Класически българск,
19) Classical Catalan-Català clàssic
20) Classical Cebuano-Klase sa Sugbo,
21) Classical Chichewa-Chikale cha Chichewa,
22) Classical Chinese (Simplified)-古典中文（简体）,
23) Classical Chinese (Traditional)-古典中文（繁體）,
24) Classical Corsican-Corsa Corsicana,
25) Classical Croatian-Klasična hrvatska,
26) Classical Czech-Klasická čeština,
27) Classical Danish-Klassisk dansk,Klassisk dansk,
28) Classical Dutch- Klassiek Nederlands,
29) Classical English,Roman
30) Classical Esperanto-Klasika Esperanto,
31) Classical Estonian- klassikaline eesti keel,
32) Classical Filipino klassikaline filipiinlane,
33) Classical Finnish- Klassinen suomalainen,
34) Classical French- Français classique,
35) Classical Frisian- Klassike Frysk,
36) Classical Galician-Clásico galego,
37) Classical Georgian-კლასიკური ქართული,
38) Classical German- Klassisches Deutsch,
39) Classical Greek-Κλασσικά Ελληνικά,
40) Classical Gujarati-ક્લાસિકલ ગુજરાતી,
41) Classical Haitian Creole-Klasik kreyòl,
42) Classical Hausa-Hausa Hausa,
43) Classical Hawaiian-Hawaiian Hawaiian,
44) Classical Hebrew- עברית קלאסית
45) Classical Hmong- Lus Hmoob,
46) Classical Hungarian-Klasszikus magyar,
47) Classical Icelandic-Klassísk íslensku,
48) Classical Igbo,Klassískt Igbo,
49) Classical Indonesian-Bahasa Indonesia Klasik,
50) Classical Irish-Indinéisis Clasaiceach,
51) Classical Italian-Italiano classico,
52) Classical Japanese-古典的なイタリア語,
53) Classical Javanese-Klasik Jawa,
54) Classical Kannada- ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಕನ್ನಡ,
55) Classical Kazakh-Классикалық қазақ,
56) Classical Khmer- ខ្មែរបុរាណ,
57) Classical Korean-고전 한국어,
58) Classical Kurdish (Kurmanji)-Kurdî (Kurmancî),
59) Classical Kyrgyz-Классикалык Кыргыз,
60) Classical Lao-ຄລາສສິກລາວ,
61) Classical Latin-LXII) Classical Latin,
62) Classical Latvian-Klasiskā latviešu valoda,
63) Classical Lithuanian-Klasikinė lietuvių kalba,
64) Classical Luxembourgish-Klassesch Lëtzebuergesch,
65) Classical Macedonian-Класичен македонски,
66) Classical Malagasy,класичен малгашки,
67) Classical Malay-Melayu Klasik,
68) Classical Malayalam-ക്ലാസിക്കൽ മലയാളം,
69) Classical Maltese-Klassiku Malti,
70) Classical Maori-Maori Maori,
71) Classical Marathi-क्लासिकल माओरी,
72) Classical Mongolian-Сонгодог Монгол,
73) Classical Myanmar (Burmese)-Classical မြန်မာ (ဗမာ),
74) Classical Nepali-शास्त्रीय म्यांमार (बर्मा),
75) Classical Norwegian-Klassisk norsk,
76) Classical Pashto- ټولګی پښتو
77) Classical Persian-کلاسیک فارسی
78) Classical Polish-Język klasyczny polski,
79) Classical Portuguese-Português Clássico,
80) Classical Punjabi-ਕਲਾਸੀਕਲ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ,
81) Classical Romanian-Clasic românesc,
82) Classical Russian-Классический русский,
83) Classical Samoan-Samoan Samoa,
84) Classical Sanskrit छ्लस्सिचल् षन्स्क्रित्
85) Classical Scots Gaelic-Gàidhlig Albannach Clasaigeach,
86) Classical Serbian-Класични српски,
87) Classical Sesotho-Seserbia ea boholo-holo,
88) Classical Shona-Shona Shona,
89) Classical Sindhi,
90) Classical Sinhala-සම්භාව්ය සිංහල,
91) Classical Slovak-Klasický slovenský,
92) Classical Slovenian-Klasična slovenska,
93) Classical Somali-Soomaali qowmiyadeed,
94) Classical Spanish-Español clásico,
95) Classical Sundanese-Sunda Klasik,
96) Classical Swahili,Kiswahili cha Classical,
97) Classical Swedish-Klassisk svensk,
98) Classical Tajik-тоҷикӣ классикӣ,
99) Classical Tamil-பாரம்பரிய இசைத்தமிழ் செம்மொழி,
100) Classical Telugu- క్లాసికల్ తెలుగు,
101) Classical Thai-ภาษาไทยคลาสสิก,
102) Classical Turkish-Klasik Türk,
103) Classical Ukrainian-Класичний український,
104) Classical Urdu- کلاسیکی اردو
105) Classical Uzbek-Klassik o’zbek,
106) Classical Vietnamese-Tiếng Việt cổ điển,
107) Classical Welsh-Cymraeg Clasurol,
108) Classical Xhosa-IsiXhosa zesiXhosa,
109) Classical Yiddish- קלאסישע ייִדיש
110) Classical Yoruba-Yoruba Yoruba,
111) Classical Zulu-I-Classical Zulu
Khandas As Found in the Pali Suttas Traditionally the are 84,000 Dharma
Doors - 84,000 ways to get Awakeness. Maybe so; certainly the Buddha
taught a large number of practices that lead to Awakeness. This web page
attempts to catalogue those found in the Pali Suttas (DN, MN, SN, AN,
Ud & Sn 1). There are 3 sections:
discourses of Buddha are divided into 84,000, as to separate addresses.
The division includes all that was spoken by Buddha.”I received from
Buddha,” said Ananda,
“82,000 Khandas, and from the priests 2000; these are 84,000 Khandas
maintained by me.” They are divided into 275,250, as to the stanzas of
the original text, and into 361,550, as to the stanzas of the
commentary. All the discourses including both those of Buddha and those
of the commentator, are divided into 2,547 banawaras, containing
737,000 stanzas, and 29,368,000 separate letters.
ESSENCE OF TIPITAKA
Positive Buddha Vacana — The words of the Buddha — Interested in All
Suttas of Tipitaka as Episodes in visual format including 7D laser
Hologram 360 degree Circarama
Analytic Insight Net - FREE Online Tipiṭaka Law Research & Practice University
112 CLASSICAL LANGUAGES Please Visit: http://sarvajan.ambedkar.org
Maha-parinibbana Sutta — Last Days of the Buddha
The Great Discourse on the Total Unbinding
wide-ranging sutta, the longest one in the Pali canon, describes the
events leading up to, during, and immediately following the death and
final release (parinibbana) of the Buddha. This colorful narrative
contains a wealth of Dhamma teachings, including the Buddha’s final
instructions that defined how Buddhism would be lived and practiced long
after the Buddha’s death — even to this day. But this sutta also
depicts, in simple language, the poignant human drama that unfolds among
the Buddha’s many devoted followers around the time of the death
oftheir beloved teacher.
Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṃ (Pali) - 2 Kāyānupassanā ānāpānapabbaṃ
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